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  1. 17 points
    452 days have passed since I booked. Now it's just 6 days away! I'm single digit dancin'! I'm super excited, and I just can't hide it! No more waiting, no more holding back, it's time to get this ball rolling! This will be my live(ish) blog for our long-awaited first-ever cruise. My family and I will be on Freedom of the Seas, sailing out of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. It's an Eastern Caribbean itinerary with four sea days and four port days, and we have a fair bit planned on those port days. BUT, that's not all we're doing! We're flying down to Fort Lauderdale 3 days early, as it saved us a ton on the airfare, so we'll be taking in the sights and activities around Fort Lauderdale for a couple of days before we board. AND we're staying one extra day in Fort Lauderdale after disembarkation, to get in one more beach day (and maybe an air boat ride) before flying back home. Here's the full cruise itinerary, plus what we have planned each day: March 31 - Embarkation from Port Everglades at 5:30 PM April 1 - Sea Day April 2 - Sea Day I'm doing Chef's Table this day April 3 - St. Kitts, 9 AM to 6 PM Dolphin push/pull/swim excursion in the AM Wandering around town in the PM, after we shower and have lunch on the ship April 4 - St. Maarten, 7 AM to 5 PM This is the big big day; we're doing an all-day beach and snorkeling tour around the island with Soualiga Destinations I'll be curious to see how the snorkeling is after the hurricane roared through there last year; haven't really heard much about that on the other recent live blogs to St. Maarten, so I will be sure to report back April 5 - Old San Juan, PR, 7 AM to 2 PM We're meeting up with a friend my older daughter met last summer, who lives in Old San Juan We plan to visit El Morro, and around that my daughter's friend said she'll show us some other interesting places, as well as the best places to eat; this might mean we'll miss a stop at Barrachinos as originally planned, but who am I to ignore the advice of someone who's lived there her whole life? April 6 - Labadee, 9 AM to 5 PM Wife and kids are doing the zip line in the morning All of us are doing the alpine coaster, as I got all-day passes for a really good sale price The rest of our time we'll be chilling in an over-the-water cabana! I heard @Matt's recommendation and rave reviews on his podcast, and I said, "This is my splurge item this trip!" April 7 - Sea Day April 8 - Return to FLL Why this itinerary? We needed a cruise that timed well with the girls' Spring Break week, but wanted one that filled up as much of that time as possible and also gave a good mix of port days and sea days. Our only other options were 7-day trips on Harmony or Allure that only gave us 3 ports, or a 10-day on Navigator to the Southern Caribbean that we'd have loved to take, but ran over the time we had (and before we knew we'd want to fly down early anyway). So this wound up being our "Goldilocks" cruise, especially with Freedom being liked by so many as a first-time cruisers' ship. We also wanted something kind of big for a first-time cruise, because we're celebrating 3 simultaneous milestones that will all happen in May / June of this year: Our 20th wedding anniversary Our older daughter graduating high school Our younger daughter wrapping up middle school Our TA actually has "20th anniversary" down on the reservation for the room my wife and I are in, and "High School Graduation" for the girls' room; I'll be curious to see if there are any decorations in either room when we arrive, or if the staff does anything out of the ordinary. Not expecting it, but ever-hopeful. Our Cabins We booked two D3 Superior Balcony rooms on deck 8, forward. The rooms are connecting, so my wife and I were able to book in one room together and the girls are in the other room. This was after looking at the prices of suites and realizing that we got more space and saved a ton of money going the two-balcony route. We plan to get the divider opened up as soon as possible, so even though we won't have a suite, we'll at least have a suite-size balcony! The rooms included $100 OBC each, we have no idea what we'll spend that on at this point. The girls are thinking of putting theirs into a purchase at the salon or maybe to get some on-ship merchandise. Drink / Dining / Other Packages I've purchased the Deluxe package for myself, and I'm planning to at least try and keep a running tally of everything I get to see if it works out. I think it will, but time will tell. The rest of the family has the Refreshment Package. Since it's our first cruise, we chose not to plan on any specialty dining and just use the MDR for all dinners. Not sure yet if we'll use the MDR for breakfast, at least on sea days, or go to the Wind jah-mehr for all the morning food. WJ will likely be our go-to for lunch, at least when we're not in port. Depending on whether any lunch specials are offered, we might try Giovanni's for lunch one day. For sure I'll be visiting Sabor, even if only for guac and margaritas. I did get the 4-device VOOM Surf and Stream package on a fairly good sale in the Cruise Planner. We mostly plan to use it for communicating with each other through iMessage and Google Hangouts (my wife is the lone Android user), and of course I'll be taking advantage of it to post updates here as I'm able. Updating this blog I'm only bringing my phone with me, no laptop since the one I have is employer-issued and I'm not working on this trip. I'll post updates as I'm able to each day, but they may be on the shorter side since typing on the phone is a lot slower than I can manage on a proper keyboard. So looking forward to this!
  2. 15 points

    This is SO awesome had to share...

    This was posted somewhere on Cruise Critic. Not sure where it came from but it's awesome!! It's drink packages explained and for those that "already know this stuff" it's noted that any changes to the RCCL Drink policies are noted in red in the article. This document ALSO contains Harmony's Bar Menu and Drink Listing WITH prices!! LAST BUT NOT LEAST...the last 4 pages documents the names of special drinks and how they are made so you can make them at home for yourself OR you will know what to order on your next cruise. I love this pdf and wanted to share with you all. Enjoy!!! Cruise News Harmony 2019 Drinking.pdf
  3. 15 points
    Day 4 - St Thomas There is no easy way to put this, this post will be photo intensive. Sorry @Matt, in the immortal words of Roy Sheider's character in Jaws... "We're going to need a bigger boat". I met with a friend and former co-worker before the excursion. He reports the majority of residents on St Thomas have power back but other luxuries like cable TV are still a work in progress. Residents on St John are still getting there. Many areas have power but more remote areas are still without. Despite that people are settling back into a routine. My excursion today - St John's "All Inclusive" Beach & Snorkel To clear up a commonly heard misconception, all inclusive refers to ferry + taxi + park admission + snorkel gear. Nothing else. No water, food or anything else. A few pictures around Crown Bay to start us off: Our greeting committee: Our chariot (ferry) to St Johns. We cruised along the Southern coast of St Thomas and from a distance much looked normal but you could see many of these coastal buildings took it hard during the storm and they are a work in progress. Twenty fives minutes later we approached Cruz Bay in St Johns. We loaded into our taxi's to begin our way to Trunk Bay. Out first glimpse at Trunk Bay. After a 15 minute drive we arrived at the Virgin Islands National Park - Trunk Bay. Restrooms and showers faired well during the storm: Some things like the concessions are not open yet. Chairs are available for rent. Snorkel gear included in the excursion was available near the beach. There is a snorkel trail underwater. The beach is gorgeous with sugar like sand. The snorkel course is to the left of the island with marker buoys in the water. I set my stuff in the sand and donned my snorkel gear. This selfie is for all those non believers who think I'm a bot. Like my rash guard? It's a $20 lycra long-sleeve t-shirt with a suit printed on it. I was the best dressed snorkeler on the beach! Lots of Sea Urchins. You do not want to step on one. If you look closely you'll see lots of minnows. This complete and about an hour later we boarded our taxi. Our driver stopped at several viewing spots so we could take pictures. That's the British Virgin Isles in the distance. Jumbie Beach This is the Caneel Bay Resort. Like most hotels it's closed pending restoration. Back on our ferry and heading to St Thomas they offered beer for $5 (brewed in Portland, ME). I managed to talk to a few locals this trip. Most hotels remains closed with no word when they might reopen. Building material and labor are hard to come by to fix them. While some hotels have opened, tourism is swayed towards cruise ships at the moment. While island life is settling into a new normal, the storm's effects continue. For example, rain inundated many homes. Appliances not physically damaged are beginning to rust and break down just now from water damage, even if minor at the time. The storms that keep on giving. Those that had the money built with concrete and faired better than those with older homes. They didn't escape unscathed though, even the concrete began to saturate from the days of rain before, during and after both storms which amounted to weeks of rain. The concrete in some cases withstood the wind but leaked water from saturation. I was glad to make it over to St Johns and just as happy to see life moving forward. It's a process but the tens of thousands of dollars each cruise ships brings are very welcome. With hotels shut many are out of work but they very much appreciate each ship and the jobs that are created from the cruise industry.
  4. 13 points
    So I did one periscope but my cruises are about absolute relaxation! So no voom, no live blog and not a ton of pics. But I had an amazing time with my husband and 15 year old daughter (who I pretty much only saw 1 day lol). I had not been on a cruise until 2015. We did 3 cruises in 2 years and then we hit Disney (the other obsession!) I can't even describe how much I missed being on a ship. This was the 2nd time on freedom. I did like the cruise terminal at port Canaveral better than port Everglades but embarkation was super easy... under 40 minutes for sure and drinking my first lava flow (with kraken rum) by 11! We had an ocean view... plenty big enough for the 3 of us. Our stateroom attendant suzanna was wonderful and we loved our 4 towel animals! The 6 days was too short (Joe took my extra day for his 8 day. Freedom alternates 6 and 8 day cruises right now) but we still hit 3 ports... grand Cayman, Costa maya and cozumel. The biggest disappointment of the trip was that it was so windy in grand cayman that they canceled all excursions to stingrays city. I was very bummed but we still got to swim with lucky the dolphin and buy lots of pics! In Costa maya my husband did one of the ruins while my daughter and I shopped and enjoyed the one day we could get near the pool (chair hugs were awful and i sure wish rc would enforce their policy). In cozumel we went to nachi. Since there were a ton of ships in port I'm glad we went. We got in so early we beat all the employees... got a beautiful beach spot! We enjoyed it... the food was excellent! Speaking of food, we ate...a ton! Sabor was excellent (service not great though) and I loved the tuna tacos and the guac. I tried all 3 margaritas (goes love the drink pkg) and liked the cucumber jalapeno the best. Chops was so good (and the service great) that we took the 25%off and went back the next night. The my time dining was mixed.... the service was fast (almost too fast) but the tables for 2 were right on top of each other and the food was good, but not amazing. I'm glad we tried my time but not sure we will do it again. And then....CHEFS TABLE! the chef was amazing, the wine was amazing, the food was amazing and the dessert (the world from wonderland) was ever moist AMAZING thing I've ever eaten or watched!! This was our 2nd chefs table and we will definitely do it again. RC lost money on my drink pkg for sure. Most days I parked myself on my sky deck chair with my book... read, eat, drink, repeat. We also had a mocha or latte every morning, wine with dinner (loved the bartender at vintages... she never steered us wrong and one of her suggestions was served at chefs table) and after dinner drinks. My daughter was probably a wash in terms of cost...we got her the refreshment pkg and she was over a few days, probably underused more but it was nice to have it paid for before the cruise. The ship never felt crowded and traffic flow was great. It's really a perfect size... not too big and not too small. For what I do (loaf in a chair and try to thaw) it works well. I'd love to try oasis class for the dining and the shows... someday lol! Precruise we stayed at the Hilton marina. We had an amazing corner balcony that had views of the intercoastal waterway as well as the port. Their pool area was a perfect way to unwind precruise! We ate at cheesecake factory on Las olas and that was fun. Post cruise we stayed at the W hotel and got upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite...amazing! I could sit on the balcony staring at the ocean and the waterway!. Both were absolute splurges but we decided to yolo book them! And so now I'm over 400 days till my next ocean cruise. I thought about a 5 night navigator next spring break but we really need to save for our summer 2019 cruise...12 night Mediterranean/ Greek isles out of Barcelona on vision of the seas. It will be the trip of a lifetime and with 8 ports we will spend a 5 night cruise amount just on excursions. We also have Paris this summer to link forward to (we have never been to Europe and will be going on a viking river cruise!) Both are very different from our Caribbean cruising! So that is my freedom trip. I wanted to share more since I love reading everyone else's blogs but I was too busy reading and being lazy! Let me know if you have any questions! Jane
  5. 13 points
    Day 9 & 10 (Debarkation, Return Home) The dreaded day has arrived. There are no more ports, no more sea days. We didn’t even have a docking to watch when we woke up. We woke up at 6:30 to the first announcement, letting those doing self-disembarkation know the ship was docked and that they should be able to leave the ship around 7 or 7:15. We wanted to eat in the MDR and not have to rush, so we up at this point and got dressed. Looking out the balcony window, we could see the port and non-cruise life waiting for us. It was patient, it knew we couldn’t stay on the ship forever. We went down to the MDR for the final time. As we walked in at 7:20, we heard the first GTFO call for those self-disembarking passengers. No cereal bar in the MDR today, only regular menu. We got seated at a four-top after thinking we’d be sharing a table and at least having some other conversation to distract us, but nope. No fresh-squeezed OJ available today. The waiter explained the machines were off limits to them on this day. My wife settled for a glass of the regular OJ, but I would not settle; I made do with just water and coffee. After breakfast, we went back to our cabins one last time and cleaned out the last of our stuff, getting everything into our backpacks and bags. We went down to deck 5 and were able to get one last round of caramel macchiatos and cappuccinos at Cafe Promenade. It was a little before 9, and we only had a short time before it our time to leave our little slice of heaven. We went to the Arcadia Theater and waited there for our turn to go. The screens in the theater were showing CNN, and it was piped out over the sound system. News?!? What fresh hell was this?? We got called off at 9:15 sharp, and decided to leave rather than stay the extra 15 minutes since we could only stay in the theater and we’d had quite enough news, thanks. We walked out to the deck 4 running track and got in line. Wade was trying to figure out where to hide until the next embarkation started. Or who to steal the Sea Pass and passport from. He could pass for a Julian Guilfoyle, right? I do have to say here that the cruise was not exactly giving us an incentive to return to dry land. The second we walked onto that track, before we even got to the end of the line, our noses were assaulted by the stench of the waste systems being emptied. Couldn’t they have done this from downwind? We all really wanted to turn and go back inside where the air was still pleasant. It took about 15 minutes to actually get off the ship and into the terminal building. There was a bottleneck at the gangway station where they scanned everyone’s Sea Pass card for the last time, and the gangway itself wasn’t exactly moving at a fast clip. A woman in the building was calling to all the passers-by that an elevator was right there and ready to go down to the ground floor. No one took it, not even me with my bad feet. She asked aloud why no one was interested in taking it. We all thought the same thing, I know we did: It wasn’t a convenience, it was a speedway back to reality and regular life. No one wanted that, and we all took the nice slow escalator, or the stairs. Once in the main waiting area, we found a porter right away; he helped us find our luggage, and took care of hauling our eight bags while we made our way through the customs line. He then led us to where we could wait for our Lyft, then dropped off our bags and headed back after I gave him a solid $2 per bag tip for hauling those 8 bags on a single dolly all that time. Our Lyft took us back to the same Embassy Suites hotel where our adventure started, and we checked in very early; we had to wait until nearly 2 for our room to be ready. We hung out in the atrium, going through photos, the girls working on some of their remaining homework. Once our room was available, we headed up and got our stuff squared away, then my wife and the girls went to the trolley to check out the Galleria mall and get some lunch. I stayed behind to rest my feet, got a small lunch from one of the places in the Publix mall right there, and went through the photos I hadn’t yet edited or culled. We had dinner at La Bamba, bringing the trip full circle and wrapping it up the way it started. After checking out the next day at 11, we took one more Lyft to the airport and waited for our flight. It got delayed by nearly an hour not long after we arrived, but similar to the flight down, they made up most of that time in the air so people with connecting flights weren’t impacted. We managed to pull up to the gate in Newark only about 20 minutes late. Our baggage showed up fairly quickly, and we made our way to the off-site parking pickup area. Did I mention yet that it was 41° F in NJ that day, and none of us packed for temps that low? We froze at the off-site pickup area for about 20 minutes while we waited for a van to come and get us. Why is it still in the low 40’s in April?!? We picked up our car from the Park Plus, and headed out for home. It was after 7 t this point, so we grabbed some dinner at the Tick Tock Diner on the way home. We got home just after 9, and after greeting our cats for the first time in almost two weeks and giving them lots of love and attention, we crashed. Today as I write this, it’s April 12. There are 183 days until my wife and I board Anthem of the Seas and kick off our next cruise. I’ll write up the final verdict and the things we loved and... not hated, just... found wanting... when I’m on a computer and can make bullet lists, but I think everyone here knows that this was an awesome trip that everyone really enjoyed.
  6. 13 points
    Embarkation Day recap... We checked out of the hotel about 10:20 and hailed a Lyft. The experience was not nearly as smooth this time; the first assigned driver mysteriously changed the ride to “in progress” without ever showing up, and I had to cancel that one and hail another (thankfully with no penalty applied). The second driver we got showed up earlier than predicted, but clearly didn’t know the area fully as he was blindly following Lyft’s GPS directions and I could see it was taking him in a crazy route compared to where the port was. It eventually got us there, and we made our way to Terminal 29, the very last one in the port. As we made our way through, we passed Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Conquest, and HAL Nieuw Amsterdam. It was indeed a busy day in the port! We arrived about 11:10, and there was already a good line of cars forming for drop-off. We checked our bags with a porter and I tipped $10 for our 8 bags (four big suitcases and four carry-ons that we wanted to check, while keeping the essentials in our backpacks and handbags). I was openly gawking at the ship and the sheer size of her, now that I could see her up close. I kind of pissed off the port workers as I failed to quickly follow their directions to GTFO and go into security, and just stood there for a minute debating whether to take a picture (I didn’t). From there we quickly went through security, and ship check-in was relatively fast as well comparing to other times I’ve seen reported here. We boarded Freedom around 11:50, so a 40 minute turnaround. Considering the large crowd already there when we arrived, and the time I “wasted” ogling her from outside the terminal building, I’d consider that pretty good. Sadly, our t-shirts advertising our 20th anniversary got us no love from any attendants, and we had to take the “no status” line. Here’s a shot of the crowd at the checkin counter, plus a panoramic showing it wasn’t actually that crowded. We boarded on deck 4, and went straight to the gym and spa so my wife could find out about those unlimited classes. Unfortunately, this resulted in us getting the guided spa tour, which none of us wanted but we got roped into as we didn’t see the way into the gym that bypassed the spa. We realized afterward that we should have gotten off at deck 11 instead of 12. My wife ended up not signing on to the unlimited classes in the gym, deciding she’ll be fine just using the complimentary equipment. But she did sign up for the free pampering session they had on offer, and the girls signed up for the teen version (though they might skip it). After this, we went outside to the pool deck, and had our first split up of the day, with the girls wandering off to explore the ship. I got right down to business, and sat down in a lounger in the shade with my first beverage — a lava flow! It was good, at least when the rum wasn’t settled to the bottom and overwhelming the flavor. My wife stayed with me and had a taste, agreed it was good. We got up and explored the rest of the deck, enjoying the view of the surrounding area. I had a moment looking over the railing where it really hit me that I was on a cruise ship, about to embark on a helluva trip, and I laughed out loud. This is what I was looking at. From the other side of the ship, we could see Harmony and Carnival Conquest, sharing the port with us. We made our way to the Promenade, and once again I had to take a few moments to just absorb it all and realize I was somewhere I’d only seen in pictures up to this point. Where to start?!? But, it was 1:10 and the announcement came out that rooms were now open. So, off we went to see what our balcony rooms were like. In two words, very nice! We were a little nervous when we saw how narrow the door was, but breathed a sigh of relief when we walked in and saw the actual space. No photos right now, my wife was adamant that I not do a photo tour set the second we got in. And happy wife does indeed equal happy life! She did not, however, say anything about taking photos of our view, so I give you one fisheye and one telephoto pic that sums it up. Our luggage arrived not long after, around 1:30. Most of it... Oddly, we got every piece except my wife’s carry-on; maybe because it was more like a very large handbag than a suitcase? That didn’t show up until a little after muster. Before muster, after unpacking our luggage, my wife and I went to the MDR to see where our table was and if we got the really big table we’d hoped for. We didn’t, but from what I could see there really weren’t any apart from a half dozen in the center. Our table is on Deck 3, #356, located to the right of the central staircase. We left the MDR and wandered around deck 4, making our way to Studio B and the ice rink. It is cold in there! By the time we were done taking in the MDR and ice rink, it was about time for muster. Muster itself was uneventful, but a little surprising. I was sure we were going to be outside, so I had all of us put on sunscreen... and then we had muster in the Star Lounge! It was over pretty quickly, and then D14 and I got Down to our post-muster goal — a margarita for me to have with sailaway, and a mocktail for her. She went back to the room to enjoy sailaway from her balcony (favorite spot #4, per @Matt, IIRC), and I made my way to the helicopter deck (favorite spot #1) by way of the “secret path” through the Star Lounge. Here I did my first ever Periscope, which was... well, let’s say I have a lot to learn on this front. 😅 I really enjoyed sailaway. The weather at this point was perfect, not too much sun, comfortable temperature, and a refreshing breeze blowing in. Once we cleared the channel and got into the open ocean, I took a few pics of the receding coastline and the helipad. I made my way all the way aft to take in the view of the wake. Doing that walk really made clear how long the ship is! But it was worth it, as I caught this view that was absolutely striking. After this, I met up with everyone back at the cabin. We got changed for dinner, then saw the welcome aboard show. I got my second margarita of the day before the show started. We got to meet our cruise director, Drew. He was very funny and engaging, so this bodes well; I found out later from the staff at Vintages that he just transferred (from Liberty?) last week. As for the main acts, there was a pair of artistic dancers who opened up the show and were really impressive, with good choreography and some jaw dropping moves. After them was a comedian who was hit and miss for me, mostly because of some his subject matter that has become a sensitive subject for me. No photos as photography was not allowed and we were sitting in the back of the theater. After that, we had our 8 PM dinner (not 8:30 as I’d originally posted) in the MDR. Menus are the same as posted earlier by @LetsTryThisPlace in his live blog, so I didn’t take pictures. Also didn’t take pics of our food as I was too engaged with the family and our table mates, a mother and son from Michigan who happen to know @mpoole3 and have cruised with him a couple times! Small world, indeed! I tried the escargot, not expecting to like them, and was very pleasantly surprised! D14 had asked to try one if I liked them, so I passed over the plate. I have to quote her here, because it kind of sums up my own experience: ”I’m kind of nervous about this...” ::eats the piece, and a moment later her face simultaneously lights up and gets confused:: “This is wrong, why does this taste so good?!?” She said she’d have it for sure tomorrow, assuming it’s offered. The rest of our meals were very good. In addition to the escargot, I had the wild mushroom soup, the horseradish crusted salmon, and creme brûlée for dessert. My wife had the Caesar salad, spaghetti bolognese, and royal chocolate cake. D14 had the crispy calamari, prime rib, and hazelnut chocolate. And D17 had the French onion soup, salmon, and fruit for dessert. D14 and I both got a cappuccino with our dessert, which is why I’m posting a novella at 1 AM instead of sleeping; lesson learned! After dinner, I went to the pub and spent some time listening to guitar player James Brown from Canada for a while, while I enjoyed a Paulaner Salvator double bock. I Periscoped some of his set before my battery got too low, and my wife joined me after a while. We tried to go back to the helipad to see the stars, but the moon is full and the wind from the bow so strong that we couldn’t even make it all the way up there! We decided to call it a day and went back to our cabin, where I started working on this. She fell asleep about midnight, but I was still wired and decided to finish this post. So there you have it! Future posts may be broken up more or they may also be novellas, but that’s the writer in me for you. I hope I conveyed how amazing this first day was for all of us, me especially. Just want to wrap up with a couple items: - Drink package tally: 1 lava flow, 2 reposado margaritas, 1 cappuccino, and 1 craft beer; I think I got my money’s worth today, given the $43/night rate I paid. - I stopped in the casino briefly and spoke with the gent at the craps table; minimum is $5 all day, and you get single odds for that bet, however if you bet $25 you get double odds; betting $50 gives you 3x/4x/5x odds, depending on what number you rolled. So serious craps players can actually get Vegas casino level odds on their pass line play.
  7. 13 points
    T-minus 1 day to embarkation... The weather is a lot nicer today, as expected. Just some scattered clouds, and nice and warm. We’ll be catching the shuttle at the Publix in a little bit to get to the nearby beach; only $1 per person vs whatever we’d have to pay for a Lyft. Will be another “take it easy” day, no set agenda. A few random thoughts: - Our room lock was adjusted yesterday, and it is much more reliable now - I can’t for the life of me understand why a room meant to sleep four has two double beds instead of two queens, especially when the bedroom section is more than large enough to accommodate them. The girls are doing OK with it, but my wife and I are finding it a little too cozy. I called the main desk before we came in and confirmed that there are no queen bed rooms, only two doubles or a single king. - D14 painted this last night, just for fun. Sketched the drawing from a photo she pulled up on her iTouch, then painted with watercolors. I continue to be amazed by the artistic talent of both my girls, but D14 is rapidly outpacing her sister (which is understandable, since D17 takes art for fun and is focused much more on music, where D14 is planning on an art / visual design focus in high school and eventually college)
  8. 12 points
    Took a couple of minutes to stand in our balcony and take in the view. It’s truly breathtaking. I am SO glad I invested in these add-on lenses, as they’re helping me take photos that capture the memories so much better than the plain camera. As you can see, we’re almost exactly in the middle between the bridge wing and the whirlpool on deck 11. I’ve never seen the ocean such a cobalt blue. It makes me pause every time I see it, just to take it in. Being a New Jerseyan, the Atlantic has always been more of a greenish tint whenever I’d go to a beach. I just assumed you had to get to a Caribbean island to see blues like this.
  9. 11 points
    Day -2 Well after few months it is time again for funny spelling mistakes/bad grammar and near real time blog. If everything will be ok and nothing change our flight we will be on the Symphony Of The Seas at this Saturday from Barcelona. So why this ship ? – really should I explain why one wants to go on Symphony ? 😊 Actually, when the first itineraries were published we already booked a cruise for September time but six weeks ago we decided we need some extra vacation until September, we thought first to travel to Thailand for some land vacation but after checking the April/May weather over therel we dropped this idea. I started to look for April cruises and I preferred something around Europe to shorten the flight time , apparently the only available ship was the SyOTC , so well we decided to volunteer and as @Matt says : do it for the research. For sure I have not canceled the September cruise as I believe it’s going to be two different experiences. Europe April Weather can be still cold and rainy while September weather will be much warmer (in Italy too warm) so we are planning to focus doing internal ship activities and some shore excursions while in September focus on other stuff like the water slides and water activities. Another difference is that for this cruise we booked Ocean view room as I do not think we would use the balcony too much (too cold) while in September we do have a balcony. Here is the itinerary: (this is the third time we are doing the same one with Harmony OTS and Liberty) Day -1 – Barcelona (getting to the hotel and find a nice Tapas restaurant) Day 1 – Barcelona (We have BOGO deal) Day 2 – Palma de Mallorca, we will take the bus to the city see what is new. Day 3 - Marseilles , we took a ship tour around the city , last time we went on a tour to one of the small cities in Provence . Day 4 - Florence/Pisa (La Spezia) – We will stay around la Spezia which is a nice small city , Florence is quite far and we already have a tour booked for the next cruise to visit Florence. I guess we will do some of the shopping there (wine, Balsamic vinegar and yes maybe shoes) Day 5 - Rome (Civitavecchia) – We have a ship tour that will transfer us to Rome , we will have around 6 hour to tour Romr by ourselves , since we already been to Rome (land tours) I think we can find our way. I took the ship transfer to make sure we will be back on time, train and buses can be delayed from time to time. Day 6- Naples (Capri) – We did not plan what to do there yet , we might take the bicycle tour if the weather will be nice or just go off the ship and tour the city (by tour the city I acutely mean go to eat a pizza 😊 ) . From all the ports of call this one is the closet to the city center, walking distance . So tomorrow early morning we are planning to catch the train to the airport (15 minutes) and start our journey to Barcelona (the flight will be via Rome which is funny consider our itinerary, but it was very cheap comparing to the direct flight, so cheap that it would not make sense to use miles). Drinking – No drinking package this time, we will bring two bottles of wines and we are planning to buy drinks from time to time (it is a very heavy port itinerary and they want 49 $ per day for the package ). Special restaurants – We got the BOGO first two night restaurants , I hope one of them will be Hooked and will try Wonderland (even if we need to add some money) but almost everything will be nice, but must have Hooked at least one time to write a report for the blog. Please feel free to ask questions or ask me to take pictures of certain things on the ship, I will try to bring as much information as I can. My partner finally got her SLR camera back from where we left it last time (long story) so maybe we can have some better pictures (although still it is a basic SLRs). Tomorrow Barcelona Hey , you do not need to buy me ticket , I will be in the suitcase , no one will notice
  10. 11 points
    IT'S CRUISE DAY!!! Disclaimer - @SaltyNavyCruiser15 started a live blog a few weeks ago but out of respect I'm trying to avoid taking over his post and starting this. I'm hoping they continue to blog as it will be an interesting comparison having different users providing perspective of the same sailing. Their blog is here: https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/boards/index.php?/topic/5849-30-mar-09-apr-southern-caribbean-cruise-on-serenade/ This week has been a busy week for me. Between business trips and my flight to reach Serenade there were four flights to her the day before sailing (an unexpected business trip had me flying over 6,000 miles this week). From my 3am ET start to the day to landing in Fort Lauderdale at 1:44am ET on the day of the cruise I would have been up for 24 hours by the time I reached my hotel if it were not for sleeping on the MD88, 767, 757 and 737 it took to arrive here. Someone today asked me what class of ship Serenade is and I drew a blank, I couldn't even remember half the classes. Yeah I'm tired. A cruise starting with two sea days is perfect right now. Itinerary Sea Day, Sea Day, St Thomas, St Croix, Martinique, St Kitts, St Maarten, Sea Day, Sea Day Excursions (booked during a recent sail event:) Skipping St. Croix excursion due to work requirements. I'm familiar with St. Croix from having done some work there so once conference calls are over I'll wander around a bit on my own. Fun fact - St Croix is home to the Eastern most point of the United States (excluding the main land). Fort Lauderdale - Port Everglades I called my hotel twice throughout the day to make sure they wouldn't give away my room as a no-show given my 2am arrival. It was nearly 3am when I crashed into the hotel bed. I woke at 8am to re-arrange my luggage and inventory what I missed since packing for the cruise a week ago. I did pretty good and double packed some items. Lyft was $12 and I arrived at terminal 19 at 10:10am. Apparently they were doing work on some terminals so we couldn't use terminal 18 or 29. I haven't used terminal 19 since a cruise on another line in 2013. It hasn't changed much (still small). The terminal contractors seemed to like it as much as I did. Suites/Pinnacle boarded at 10:30, Diamond Plus at 10:40-ish and a few minutes later they called Diamond - the escalator can only take so many at a time so they regulate flow. Not bad - just over 30 minutes from my early terminal arrival to boarding. Pretty painless. BTW - terminal 19 also has free wifi. Lunch in the WJ. Honey Stung Chicken and Curry and a few other things and before I knew I it my plate looked like food coma. I need a nap. Cabins opened right at 1pm as offered. Cabin and dinner pictures tomorrow once I've slept.
  11. 11 points
    OK, we are back home and I've finally reviewed all the photos I took and edited the ones I judged worth keeping (which was still over 400 total!). With that taken care of and only watermarking of the copies for here needed, this blog is officially resuming... NOW Day 4 – St. Kitts Today is our first port day, and we're really excited because it's also dolphin swim day! We wanted to get up early enough to catch the sunrise today, but my Fitbit alarm wasn't strong enough to wake me up (might have had something to do with all that wine I'd had the night before). At least we still woke up around 7, so we didn't have to race through breakfast before going out to our excursion. While we missed the sunrise, we were still up early enough to see the island of St. Kitts somewhat far off in the distance, shrouded in clouds and mist. We went to breakfast in the MDR, and got a table right alongside one of the large porthole windows. We were treated to more views of the island as we sailed into the port, and could see the clouds rapidly burn away as the sun rose higher. After breakfast, we went back to our cabins to get ready for our outing, and got our first view of the port area. We disembarked on deck 1 and walked out onto the pier. I finally had a chance to get some shots of the ship's exterior, as well as our approach to the port entrance. We actually went out to the port around 9:30, and our meet-up for the dolphin swim wasn't until 10:15, so the girls and I explored the port area a little bit while my wife held our place in line and stayed in the shade. We thought maybe the girls might find a souvenir or two to pick up for themselves or their friends, and we at least wanted to get a view of the place. I'll be honest, this was not a good first impression of a port village. The girls and I couldn't walk three steps without someone walking up and offering us a guided tour, or a taxi ride to some place, or a chance to take a photo with one of the monkeys the island is known for, or to step into their shops to just look around and get some free stuff in exchange. Even if I had wanted to take any pictures of the place, and believe me I didn't, I didn't feel like I could do that safely or without someone jumping into the shot and then telling me I owed them money for taking their picture. We all quickly grew tired of saying no and having to rush away, and went back to the port entrance. One important note here, for those who have said in the past they would just bring their Sea Pass cards off the ship and nothing else: The port security people were not allowing anyone out of the village and back onto the main entrance / pier area if they did not have both their Sea Pass and a passport or other valid ID (I think they were accepting driver's licenses, but preferred passports). This was a big surprise, and I was very glad that I had our passports in my foldable backpack; otherwise we'd have been in a lot of trouble since my wife was nowhere near close enough to hear us holler at her to get them from the ship. So with that little "adventure" out of the way, we waited while the excursion team got everyone grouped together, had us sign in, and gave us the appropriate wrist bands for the specific activity we'd signed up for. The vast majority had signed up for the same Push / Pull / Swim as us, with just a few people doing the higher-end option that included a push by two dolphins, and maybe a dozen or so (mainly families with toddlers or other very young children) doing the baseline "experience" option. Once everyone had signed the checklist and gotten their wrist bands, we were put into vans and driven over to the Dolphin Discovery site, near the Bird Rock Beach hotel about 15 minutes away. Many others here have written about these excursions before, so I won't go into any great detail here. The staff were quite knowledgable about dolphins in general and the ones in their care specifically, telling us about our particular dolphin's history with the organization. They definitely seemed to care about the dolphins we were interacting with, treating them well, frequently reminding us to be careful around them and not try to stroke their face or under their chins as it was not comfortable for them, and making sure to reward them each time that they successfully did one of the actions with us. For our package, we got to go into the water and "cuddle" with our dolphin, Dante, get pulled by him by grabbing his lower fins while he swam on his back, and ride a boogie board while he pushed us by one of our feet. We also did the standard "kiss" and cheek peck while standing on the platform by the dock, as well as a couple of other typical trainer tricks. All the while, the photographer was there getting lots and lots of pictures. Since this was a bucket list item for my wife, I did buy the photo package, which was $210 for a CD with all of our photos on it and well as the ability to download the full-resolution images via their app for up to 15 days after our visit. I had hoped to get a chance to haggle about that price a bit, but it was bedlam inside the gift center area where you bought this, and we were getting close to the time we'd have to get on our vans back to port, so I ended up paying the full price. But in my view it was totally worth it. It certainly supports the place and the locals who staff it, and helps keep the dolphins in their care in good shape; and if nothing else, I can make my own prints at larger than 8 x 10 to hang on our walls, and I can also share some of them here (with proper attribution in the watermark). For here, I just chose the photos that showed our faces, as I think it sums up the experience pretty well. My wife only liked the one photo of her that's posted here, so that's why you don't see more of her. After this, we returned to the ship, showered, and then spent the rest of the day doing separate things. My wife and daughters did go back to the village for a bit, aware of what it was like but still hoping to find something decent; and D14 was debating spending the money to get a picture with a monkey. They came back after a short time without anything, and D14 agreed that the prices charged for the monkey pics were ridiculous. For myself, I relaxed on the balcony and broke out my mini-tripod, Camalapse, and phone bracket (as well as getting creative with stacking our two balcony tables to get a clear view above the railing) to take a nice time-lapse of the port area. I used the telephoto lens for this, and I really like how it came out: Besides the time-lapse video, I also took some stills using my different lenses. For sail-away, I went back out to the helicopter deck and tried another Periscope, since the ship was parked "backwards" and I could be closer to the interior while still getting video of the island. On my way there via the Star Lounge side door, I found this sight: I really don't get these people. You can find out why when I post my Day 7 recap. After scoping, I was treated to a very nice sunset. My wife had just messaged me to see if I wanted to join her for a bit before dinner, but I had to wait a few minutes so I could get these shots. The sky was just striking at those moments. The sky faded far too quickly for me to have my wife join me, but I did message her that it was happening and to get to the balcony fast so she and the girls could watch it. Afterwards, I went to the cabin and my wife and I spent some time relaxing on the balcony together before dinner. Dinner was in the MDR again, and as with all the prior nights D14 and I made sure to order escargots as part of our appetizers. The girls and my wife were tired and went back to the cabin to relax, and in the girls' case do a little homework or drawing before turning in for the night. For myself, I went to see the headliner act for that night, a ventriloquist named Ronn Lucas. He was very funny, and reminded me in a lot of ways of Jeff Dunham, as their acts shared a lot of similarities. Lucas didn't use as many puppets, but I have a feeling that one of them is drawing on the other's routines; either that, or it's a standard in ventriloquist acts to have things like the "you're arguing with yourself!" bit, or doing the multiple characters / voices in rapid-fire back-and-forth. As soon as the act was over, I went back to the cabin. I had considered going back to the craps table for a bit, but decided sleep was more important given the long day ahead of us in St. Maarten. We had this fellow waiting on our bed when I came in: That's it for our day in St. Kitts. I have to watermark all the pics from St. Maarten now, and I have to get back to laundry, ordering new eyeglass lenses, and a few other chores; so that day's post will be out later tonight. EDIT: I forgot the drink package tally! Fresh squeezed OJ in MDR with breakfast Grande cappuccino at Cafe Promenade right after breakfast 2 Patron reposado margaritas, one right before sail-away and one after the sunset, from Bull & Bear pub A glass of the "La Volte" Toscana I'd had on Day 2, from Vintages ($4 overage applied to my account) Something of a "light" day, but I think I just broke even with the $43 daily cost, since the three alcoholic beverages were $36 against the package, and the non-alcoholic ones were about $10 total.
  12. 11 points
    Day 8 - St Maarten continued... This afternoon's excursion would be on the catamaran 'Swept Away' which is why this excursion was called "Swept Away Coastal Cruise". We met on the pier and guests from both Adventure and Serenade were present. From here it was a short walk to the boat which used the water taxi terminal at the port. The boat featured both covered seating as well as mesh areas in the front where you could sit for an over water full sun experience. We left the Great Bay area where the ships dock and headed along the coast. Captain Kevin at the helm had Caribbean music playing stopping it occasionally so they could narrate and inform us of interesting facts along the way. We passed Fort Amsterdam and Little Bay. The Divi Little Bay Beach Resort where the King and Queen of The Netherlands stay when they visit is one of the first and few hotels that have reopened. From here we continued to the water and electric plants that generate all the electricity and water desalination for the Dutch side. The tankers here were offloading fuel for the generators used to power this side of the island. This was my view straddling the right pontoon most of the day. This is the the draw bridge used for boats to enter the lagoon which is one of the largest lagoons in the Caribbean. This is where everyone moves their boats during hurricanes. During Irma over 300 boats were damaged beyond repair and they continue to deal with wrecks to this day. According to our hostess no sailboat masts survived the storm including the 'Swept Away' we were on. As a result we had no 'sailing' and our tour used engine power all the way. This took us into Simpson Bay where we saw beaches lined with people and water sports underway. The bay is a popular anchoring spot for many boats and yachts such as this unique craft. It was reported the entire craft can be controlled by the owners iPad. Continuing along the coast we made our way to Maho Beach, the famous beach area at the end of the runway where people go to watch planes land. You could hear the music from the Sunset Bar located at Maho Beach with scores of people on the beach just like it used to be. We hung out here for a while and watched as some airplanes landed above us. Continuing along the coast... This beach in Mullet Bay is where the locals like to spend most weekends. The water was crystal clear and we were told it was 35' deep where we were but you could see the sand bottom very easily. The spot marks the border between the Dutch and French sides of the island. If you look very close there is a small green fence separating the two sides even though it is an open border and you can freely move between the two countries. We continued sailing up the French side of the island with Sylvia our bartender keeping the drinks flowing. This area Baie Longue (Long Bay in English) on the French side is one of the most expensive parts of the island. At this point we turned and started making our way eventually back to Philipsburg and the ships. A few dolphins swam near us briefly on the way back. It was a very enjoyable excursion and it was great seeing the coast of St. Maarten from a catamaran. Our hosts explained everyone on the Dutch side has power and water at this point and they were very proud of how strong and resilient the people of St Maarten have been through to this point. One them explained that the boat she used to work on was destroyed and she was so happy to be working again now on the 'Swept Away'. They were all very happy to be working again and they thanked us for that. With only one or two hotels open it really drove home the impact that the cruise industry has on the local economy.
  13. 11 points
    I won! Woohoo! At the CC Meet & Mingle they had a raffle for "stuff you'd never buy" and I won an RC backpack. Our ship representative warned us several times they tend to fall apart but knew exactly how they could be fixed by sewing them up with dental floss. Things you make you go "hmmm". I should have brought my dental floss needle, but heck it's free and I won it (I never win anything). Enjoying my balcony today... how else? I thought I'd test out wifi calling given that this is a non-O3b ship. I called my agent to save $400 on a December cruise. Not bad, the call broke up a few times but in the end I saved $400 so I'll take it! As I sat there I spotted a celebrity approaching. Using my bot-like vision I discovered it's the Celebrity Silhouette. Soon after some birds came along. At first I wasn't sure what they were doing out here but then it became obvious. Success! Flying fish being taught a lesson by a flying bird - better to stay in the water.
  14. 10 points
    So how does the MSC Seaside stack up against Royal? Some background info: My family of 4 just returned from our weeklong spring break cruise on MSC Seaside. This is our 15th cruise, 8 with Royal and 6 with Disney. Our last 5 cruises in a row have all been Royal as Disney went from high priced to crazy priced. Additionally we really enjoy many aspects of Royal equal or better than Disney at this point. Every future booking that we currently have is on Royal so we are mostly drinking the Kool-Aid around here. I originally switched to this MSC sailing in place of an Oasis sailing as it was cheaper, a brand new ship, a better room, and better perks. We stayed in Room 11003 which was advertised pre-build as a 2 bedroom suite with a giant wrap around balcony. It actually ended up being a one bedroom suite with an above average but one sided balcony. Our travel agent was able to get us some OBC for this false advertising. Overall my thoughts below are mostly when comparing Seaside to Oasis class although I have been on Brilliance, Enchantment, and Indy. Let’s get to a bullet form of positives and negatives Here is a list of positives for Seaside as it compares to Royal: With our Aurea Package drinks and spa access is included on top of a cheaper room we easily saved $500 per person of additional cost from Royal. Doubles (and sometimes triples) drinks were no problem and sometimes encouraged by the bar staff. Mixed drinks were all from canned soda which is a better quality soda. Often they would give you the can with your drink. The cost of after hours kids club can be billed per night per kid and is less expensive than Royal. Their after hours pricing was $6 per hour, $10 for the night, and $50 for the week. The vibe of the adults only aft pool area was very cool. Overall I would rate the Seaside MDR slightly better than any of Royal’s that I’ve been in. Close but overall food quality I would score a bit better. PIZZA-No single item clearly dominates over Royal more than the nonstop fresh and quality New York style pizza. 50% of my weight gain on this cruise was directly from pizza I am sure of it. The kid’s water park was slightly better than any of the Royal splash pads. It was an enclosed and shaded area with 4 slides and a large splash pool and an additional toddler slide area. Room service was included with our Aurea package all day except from 11PM-5AM. A bowling alley, we bowled twice and really enjoyed this. Gelato and gelato ice cream bars are included with the Aurea package. The chocolate ice cream bar in particular was awesome. The main stairways are gorgeous in the atrium area. It is a beautiful ship for sure. Ocean views are everywhere. I told someone it reminded me of a Brilliance ship on crack. If Oasis class is called too inward facing this is certainly its foil. The value of our room size for what we paid was great; MSC is trying to buy some business of course since they are the new ship in town. The supporting team below the cruise director was very good. Tons of places to eat outside. All around the main buffet you could eat outside. The Jungle pool area was a hit for our family. It has a retractable roof that they usually had half closed. It created some warmth on the cooler days. It was similar to the Solarium but having it family friendly was a plus for us. Lots of shade too. The tipping was completely unexpected by the employees. I like to tip throughout my cruise on Royal but maybe because of the European origins of MSC, you couldn’t even add a tip to a bar item if you wanted to. From a cost perspective this is a positive but I actually like to tip so a mixed bag. Push buttons by your room entrance door that would put a color above your door so your cabin steward knew if you wanted privacy or wanted your room serviced. Plus they knew if you were in the room even if you didn’t ask for privacy since your room card had to be in the holder by the door. Way more roaming drink servers all around the ship than Royal. They did a better job with seating the theatre each night. Attendants would check every row and fill every seat and escort the last 50-100 people to the last seats available. Splitting parties as necessary. Very nice sports bar. The selection of the buffets was less than Royal but I thought the flow and food quality was slightly higher. The talk about tons of opera is completely unfounded. Across the 7 shows I doubt there was more than 10 minutes. There is some music from Phantom of the Opera and other musicals but Royal does entire productions so I think that’s a non-issue. The ocean views from many of the bars in the atrium were beautiful. Here is a list of negatives as it relates mostly to Royal: No kids club on day one, major bummer, it was only open for family time. As many have mentioned, it did have a faint sewage smell when we first entered. I don’t know if we just got used to it or if it improved throughout the week. The only place I continued to smell it all week was in the shower before I turned on the water. No Michelob Ultra on the ship, my wife’s drink of choice! My drink of choice Jack Daniels was not on the Aurea package. For $80 a person for the adults we both upgraded to the deluxe package so that I could have my drink of choice. Royal has Gentleman Jack as well which they don’t have. One plus to this was that the upgrade to deluxe gave us unlimited access to our room’s mini bar. It was stocked with 4 different beers, all of your major sodas, a few weird European juices, water, Pringles, a few hard liquors, and some other snacks. You would leave a form daily and your room attendant would reload it with no additional charge. We tried morning room service twice and it was late and very limited in selection. There was a special breakfast sandwich that you could pay $2 for but both times we ordered it they didn’t have it. One time our delivery guy went back and got us a few eggs Benedict instead which was nice of him. Overall though not much to get for breakfast by room service. The entertainment was good but not as good as Royal’s on Oasis class. They had a different 30 minute show every night. We went to all 7 shows so it was good but still what the Oasis ships offer can’t be matched at sea. The ceilings felt lower than some of the newer Royal ships in some areas. I have no data to back this up but being a tall guy I felt closer to the ceiling at times than on newer Royal ships. No hand washing was required for people that walked into the buffet. This was shocking after seeing Disney and Royal really push this. They had nice soap and water hand washing stations and sanitizer always available but many people just walked on by and there were no employees there to compel them to do the right thing. The service was good but as a whole I think I would rate it slightly lower than Royal’s. Not a single bar of soap anywhere, just pump stations in the showers and at the sink. Their towel policy was bizarre in that you could only trade them out at one spot on the whole ship. The main expectation was that they are kept and replenished in your room by your attendant. If you lose one supposedly it’s a $20 charge. Less vegan options at the buffets than with Royal. Essentially no arcade whatsoever. There were only 2 racing games and 1 air hockey table in the entire ship. Our kids love the arcade on Royal. Internet speed was good and 6 gigs to share for 4 people for $130 wasn’t a bad price but the no-worry nature of Voom can’t be beat. There are significantly less activities than on most Royal ships, especially on seas days. Our balcony wall was white so you couldn’t see anything from the chairs but white. The splash pad hours were poor. Closed the first day (and we had our suits) and on other days it closed pretty early. Water was everywhere in the kids pool area. No employees were using squeegees to keep it relatively dry. It made a shocking difference on a busy day and I think a few lawsuits and they will change this. Not enough covered hot tubs. Also the main pool area was totally devoid of shade for the most part. Embarkation was good but the first hour on the ship was very crowded and disorganized. We waited in places we didn’t need to wait because staff wasn’t directing well. No bar service in the theatre. Not enough room to eat breakfast outside on the balcony for the level room we had. Vegans don’t get offered dessert at dinner. No alcohol allowed near the pools or hot tubs. You can’t leave your drink behind the hot tub and sip it; you had to leave it by your chair. You could not get the same servers every day or the same table. In our dining room it was first come first serve. If we weren’t early we couldn’t get the server and table we wanted. Reservations are needed for the late night kids club (we never tested this room so not sure if it held up). Overall the kids clubs were nice but things appeared much more chaotic and we didn’t feel comfortable with our kids there to the same degree that we do on Royal and Disney. AdventureOcean staff really is great. The bowling is timed with no warning so we got shut out of our tenth frame. Kids weren’t allowed in the spa to tour even on the first day. Kids Club is closed and the Spa doesn’t allow kids, someone at MSC hasn’t connected the dots there. Let the families check it out the first day like they do on Royal. Essentially you can not use the spa on the first day if you have kids. While the pizza is amazing, they stop making it at midnight even though the buffet is open until 2am. Room service is the only way to get food for the really late hours when you shouldn’t be up anyway. Overall what is our final evaluation? I would say that we had a great time on this cruise. All in all I don’t think the Seaside or the American MSC experience is as good as the Royal experience but it’s not a landslide victory. I think if pricing or benefits drop the total cost of a Seaside cruise a fair amount lower than a cruise on one of Royal’s newer ships that it is worth checking out. We would sail on Seaside again but we didn’t rebook onboard and I am not looking at their website on a regular basis like Royals! If you fear the Carnival clientele I can say that the Seaside guests were similar to what I’d see on Royal except that there were many more foreigners as you would expect. I also saw numerous Disney Castaway Club Lanyards as previously loyal Disney cruisers look for a more reasonably priced cruise vacation. I think in the end Seaside is a great thing because it puts pressure on the big 3 and Disney in the Florida market. When there is competition and all of these companies keep trying to one up each other ultimately the consumer wins. I think the new sports bar on Symphony is a response to the sports bar on MSC Seaside and other ships as Royal has been lacking in that arena. Royal wouldn’t be dropping wheel barrels of money into Coco Cay if it didn’t feel the need to stay ahead of the competition. So if you can live with 7 days on a beautiful ship where you don’t earn any crown and anchor points this could be a ship for you to try if the stars align. I also think if you are a bigger ship person you might prefer this over many of the older Royal ships. However overall if you are a loyal to Royal type I don’t think it will convert you but you’ll enjoy the experience and probably enjoy jotting down all of the different nuances between the brands as my family did. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to answer them and thanks for reading if you made it this far!
  15. 10 points
    Day 5 – St. Maarten To use a @twangsterism – This is going to be a photo-heavy post. Consider yourselves forewarned. Our day in St. Maarten ran from 8 until 5, and we were in the process of docking around 7 AM when I woke up. What woke me up was the sound of two men in what sounded like an argument. I went out to my balcony and saw these two gents down on the pier, still having a rather animated discussion. While the rest of the family got up and ready to go down to breakfast, I continued to take pictures while docking wrapped up. Even from the pier I could see the island was beautiful, and I wanted to capture as much as I could, especially that unparalleled water. It was still cloudy this early in the day, but in a way that was better since the light hadn't yet gotten harsh. We went down to the MDR for a slightly hurried breakfast, since we needed to make our way over to Dock Maarten where our excursion with Captain Bob's Soualiga Adventures would depart. We left the ship and started walking through the port market around 9:10, having been notified through email that checkin was at 9:30 and departure at 10 sharp. Thankfully, this market was a complete 180 from the one in St. Kitts; while it still had plenty of shops, we didn't get harassed even once as we walked through. If we weren't in a genuine rush, it would have been nice to wander a bit and maybe give these folks some actual customers. As we left our ship's pier and headed to the market, we saw the other ships who were in port for that day -- Celebrity Eclipse and MSC Seaside: It's actually a pretty straightforward trip from the market to Dock Maarten -- if you're walking, it's only about 15 minutes (20 if you're more slow-moving like me); but since we were running a bit late and needed faster transport, we grabbed the first taxi that was offered to us by the gents at the port entrance, where it meets the main road. The taxi driver was this particular gent's mother, and she was driving a seriously beat-up Hyundai that the four of us had to somewhat squeeze into. It cost us $12 to get there, but for saving the strain on my feet that morning it was worth it. And it gave some funds to the locals who I knew could use it. We did get a chuckle on our way there; our driver had gone into the left lane to bypass the backlogged traffic and get us to Dock Maarten more quickly, when she saw a police car coming our way. She quickly pulled into a gravel parking area on the other side of the road that looked like it was part of a construction site for some rebuilding work, and while she checked to make sure the policeman had passed by and wasn't coming back, she explained that this was the sole policeman in the area -- and her nephew! She chuckled as she said she'd almost certainly see him again later that evening around dinner, and he was sure to ask her what she was doing on the wrong side of the road by the port; she told us she was going to play all innocent and say she wasn't anywhere near there. It was something of a game the two of them played every day while he patrolled the area and she worked her taxi service, and we had to laugh along with her. We got to our destination and met up with Captain Bob himself. He handled our checkin, then introduced us to his son, Brett, who would be our tour guide and captain of the particular boat we were going to be on. The first mate was Brett's fiancée, Laura. I'll be writing up a longer review of the whole excursion in the Shore Excursions forum, for now I'm going to stick to the highlights and the photos that go with them... As promised, we departed at 10 AM sharp. As we pulled out of the port area and into the open water, we saw a Costa ship making a late arrival into the port; so there would actually be four ships in port that day, which I'm sure the people of the island were more than happy to see. I wasn't able to get a photo at this point as the ship was too far away and we were moving a bit too quickly to get a steady shot. At this point, Brett took us along the Dutch side of the island, and we made our way to the big marina that houses the most expensive yachts. All along the way, there were visible signs of the devastation that Hurricane Irma had wrought and that hadn't yet been repaired. But there was also still a lot that was intact or rebuilt, and a lot that was still really pretty and good to see. I took some video while we went through the marina, but my phone's mic picked up way too much wind noise and I haven't been able to clean up the sound enough yet to make it worth sharing. iMovie is still my editing tool for video, and the latest version removed the manual equalizer tool that could have allowed me to clean up that wind noise. As we exited the marina and made our way to the next area of interest, we passed a graveyard of wrecked ships that were waiting to be destroyed, having been sunk and beyond the point of repair or salvage. From here, we moved out into open waters again and made our way to the first destination of our trip. I continued to take lots of pictures, capturing both the beauty and the tragedy that was on display. I was using my tele lens the whole time, and you're going to see that it has some... interesting... effects on the corners of these images. I took most of them using the phone's burst mode, so I could get some reasonable shots as the boat bounced and sped along, and combined with the tele lens it introduced what looks to me like a tilt-shift effect in the corners of many of these pictures. If you've ever watched Sherlock on PBS, you'll know tilt-shift from the show's opening sequence. Here we have the governor's house for the French-side governor. Not long after seeing this (and Brett kidding with us that it was Oprah's winter home), we officially crossed to the French side of the island as we passed under a small drawbridge. Once we were on the French side, we saw a lot more boats docked in the area. Brett explained that the rates for boat moorings on the French side are significantly lower than on the Dutch side, so most of the local folks who have smaller and cheaper boats dock them in that area. It's been nicknamed the boat trailer park of the island. Ummm, I can't really talk now. I've got cows... Brett and Laura said they stumbled across them one time while just going to that beach on their own for a picnic. The herd has some bulls and they actually charged the two of them; they had to clear out of there in a big hurry! The little island above is named Tintemarre, and this was our first snorkeling stop. The prime "catch" here is sea turtles and sting rays. My wife and the girls got their snorkeling gear and dove in to explore. I stayed on the boat and spent the 45 minutes we were there just chatting with Brett, getting to know him a bit and talking about things like the add-on lenses he saw me using, investing (he was a hedge fund manager before he joined his dad in doing the boat tours), and other small talk. After everyone was back on board, we made our way to the next stop, Pinel Island. The island is both a wildlife refuge / nature preserve, and also a day trip spot for the neighboring locals and people looking for a little pleasure cruise. In addition to the small beach that offers loungers and umbrellas, there are two small restaurants / bars and a little gift shop that offers hand-made items. The water here is really only about chest height, so you just jump off the boat and wade to land. I took advantage and made my way up to the little yellow hut at the top of the second picture above, which is the sole restroom on the island. On my way back, I noticed as I passed the gift shop that there was a big cluster of hermit crabs sheltering in a little bit of ground cover around a palm tree. I wish I had my phone, but there was no way with my non-waterproof model that I was throwing it in my backpack and risking it getting soaked in the ocean while I waded from boat to land and back. I did tell my wife and the girls about it, and they went to take a look and also look at the gift shop. D17 bought a couple of sets of hand-carved and -painted cats, one set for us and the other for her boyfriend's family. She also picked out a couple of other knick-knacks. We spent a little over an hour here, relaxing and having lunch. Lunch consisted of sandwiches, chips, and apples that were packed on board, since the beach restaurant they used to go to was destroyed by Irma and not yet rebuilt. I gathered that the places there on Pinel wouldn't have catered to us, for whatever reason. The sandwiches were quite good, and there was plenty of water and beer to go around and wash it all down. I enjoyed a nice light French lager that was a local favorite and quite tasty. After lunch, we went to our next stop, which is named Creole Rock. It's literally a massive rock thrusting up from the otherwise open ocean, and which harbors a wide variety of sea life, including urchins that will wreck your day if you swim on the ocean side and get dashed onto the rock by the powerful waves there. My wife and the girls took another dip in the water, although this time D17 was content to just swim and not snorkel; she found breathing through the snorkel tube too weird and unnerving to give it another go, especially after swallowing a bunch of sea water the first time when she didn't clear it properly after water got in. D14 and the wife both stayed well clear of the rock, where they'd been told they'd also see octopi as well as the sea urchins, and managed to catch sight of some of the many fish there. I once again stayed on board, having gotten quite refreshed at Pinel and not feeling the need to get in the water again. I also found climbing back into the boat via the rail-less ladder they attached on the back very difficult, and that definitely played a part. Once our time at Creole Rock was up, everyone got back on board and we sped back over to the Dutch side of the island, where we had a quick stop at a very lavish mansion in Plum Bay that we learned had been bought a few years prior by one Donald J. Trump. Ironically, the water and land surrounding the building are declared public by the government, and people regularly show up around the building just going about their business without the owner or his staff being able to do a damn thing to keep them off his lawn. We also passed this ship, which seemed to have a Viking theme to it. I assume it was another excursion vessel. From Plum Bay, we made our way to Long Bay. This is the area with the many beautiful white houses and villas with red tile roofs. We spent a half hour here for more beach time and swimming, and in my case more photography. Having done this a few times now, I really like how a panoramic image comes out when taken with the tele lens vs. no lens. It's a night and day difference. Once we wrapped up our time in Long Bay, it was time to head back to the marina. Brett opened up the triple engines on our boat and we were seriously jetting along, far too fast and bouncy for me to even think about taking any photos. He was in a rush for a reason. We pulled up to Maho Beach just as a big private jet zoomed by overhead. We got there just a little too late; I had needed to stow my phone and lens in my pockets / under my towel, with the lens in its travel bag, because of the splashing we were getting from our fast ride. There was just no time for me to pull everything back out and get a photo before that jet zoomed by. Two of the other boats from Captain Bob were already there and those folks were definitely luckier in that regard. There were no other planes coming, and we needed to get back to the marina so we didn't miss our 4:30 all-aboard time. The three boats got into a rather fun and exciting race to see who'd make it back to the marina first. Although our boat had three engines while the other two just had a pair, we ended up getting into the marina second. Partly because we needed to yield to some other boats that came along, partly because the captain of the "winning" boat was driving like a bat out of hell. Once we were back on land, I tipped Brett and Laura $25 to thank them for the great trip, the good food and drink, and the good conversations I'd had with them. We stopped briefly at the cheese shop, where Brett said we'd be able to get a free treat, and a part of me wished we didn't still have five days left before we'd be home. They were selling a really awesome Gouda that I was given a sample of, and while they said it was designed to travel well, I didn't think a wedge would hold up for that long on a ship and also a hotel before going on a plane back home. As we made our way through the port market, we passed by a yacht I'd seen docked there since we left in the morning. Because I had to walk slowly, we barely made it to the ship for all-aboard. We were among the very last to get back on, with a few of the ship's staff who had the day off ahead of us. We laughed privately as we heard two of them getting super-excited because they just found out their next contract would transfer them from the Caribbean to a ship that would be sailing Alaska and then Australia for the winter months. D14 and D17 both had a scare as they got back on board. Their Sea Pass cards had smudged and faded to the point of being barely legible, we assume from the sunscreen they were using. The security guards told them that while the scan of the bar code on back was good and they could board, they had to get new cards from Guest Services immediately or they would be denied permission to leave the ship the next day in San Juan. Needless to say, they both went straight to Guest Services and got new cards printed out. While they got that taken care of, I quickly grabbed my standard sail-away margarita (sadly, "just" a Patron Silver and not a reposado) and went back up to my balcony. The Costa ship I'd seen earlier was still there, and I could now see clearly that it was the "new" Costa Classico (which I later learned from our dinner mates was about to be decommissioned, so none of us could figure out what it was doing all the way out here). I heard a vehicle coming down the pier, and looked down to see a dock worker release the last of the mooring lines from the pier. It was quickly drawn in and I knew sail-away was about to start. Freedom's horn called out to signal sail-away... and HOLY MOTHER OF GOD WAS THAT COSTA SHIP'S HORN CALLING BACK TO US FRACKING LOUD!!!!! I had no idea she was going to do that, and the ship is so much smaller than Freedom that her horn is practically on the same level as our Deck 8 cabins. I was maybe a couple of hundred feet away from it when it sounded. And then sounded again. And then again! I had my ears covered each time I heard Freedom's horn sound again, knowing that Classico was about to respond. Once that ended and I saw we were moving, I took some more pics of her as we pulled away and left St. Maarten behind us. Once sail-away was done, I grabbed our towels that we'd checked out and returned them to the pool deck. On the way back, I noticed a tile mural in the solarium that I had somehow missed in my earlier "photo safari". After I got back to our room, I suggested to my wife we watch the sunset. We went down to deck 4 and the Schooner Bar so I could get another margarita (an 1800 reposado this time) and she got a mock lava flow. Drinks in hand, we made our way to the Star Lounge to get to the helipad... and found ourselves blocked by a locked door. Rather than try to find our way to the outside walkway on deck 4 and then back up to 5 and the helipad, we went up to deck 12 and then onto the top-most lounging area above the pool. We were a little late to catch the full show, but it was still nice and I got one really nice shot, with a cloud edged in fire as the sun went behind it and a visible shadow shooting up from it into the air. Sunset over and with some time to kill before dinner, I went to Boleros after getting changed and just people-watched while editing some of my photo backlog. The Latin band started playing while I was there, and some of the passengers got into the spirit of the music and started dancing. I joined the rest of my family for dinner, where D14 and I sadly saw there were no escargots on the menu. We ordered some other appetizers, and I also ordered the Tiger Prawns that were the specialty of the evening for my entrée. Much to our surprise, our waiter Jigger brought out a plate of escargots for each of us that he "had found in the kitchen". We were beyond thrilled, although now I was wondering if I'd have enough room for the rest of my meal. The challenge was amplified when Jigger then brought out my Tiger Prawn entree... and then came with another plate that he split between me and my table mate, Debbi... followed a few minutes later by another plate that he split between us! This night was the first time in the whole trip where I felt a little more than comfortably full, but I still didn't feel like I'd over-eaten. None of us were interested in that night's headliner, a magician duo. So dear wife and the girls went to bed, while I went to the casino for another round at the craps table. Luck was on my side again, and I came out $66 ahead after only a half hour of play. This was good enough for me, and I called it a night and went to bed. I found our night's towel animal still intact. Two port days down, two to go! And for San Juan, we were really going to be off the usual path since we were meeting D17's friend Estefania, who lives right in Old San Juan and would be acting as our personal tour guide! More to come tomorrow! (well, later today at this point)
  16. 10 points


    I feel everyone's pain, I've got such a long wait between cruises. I'm at least 17 days from the single digit dance.
  17. 10 points
    I haven’t forgotten about this blog, but the last three days have been jam packed! What free time I’ve had (and it hasn’t been much) was only enough to edit my (many, many) photos and take notes for the daily recaps I’ve yet to write. They are coming and right soon! Now that we’re clear of our four port days and have a sea day tomorrow, plus a chill day in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, I’ll be getting back to writing about everything that we’ve been up to!
  18. 10 points
    Day 3 (sea day) This was another slow day for us, but I think we all were getting into a bit more of a groove with the ship. Certainly it didn’t hurt that I got a much better night’s sleep. For me, this was a day to take pictures around the upper decks, as well as catch some unusual items in a sort of “photo safari”. First, pics of the latter hunt: This odd enclosed couch: Dammit, how many times did I tell the merchant my name does NOT have a “G” in it?!? This old girl has been photographed a million times, but it was a good test of my tele lens. This Next was definitely an oddity for this day and age. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a Wurlitzer jukebox (on land, at least)? I stumbled across this in one of the stairwells. Very different from the other art and artistic photos you’ll find on each deck landing. Last was this mural-style wall sculpture in Boleros Lounge. Now on to the pool deck, where I gave all three of my lenses lenses some work. After this, I checked out the live pool band for a bit. Next I made my way over to the Flow Rider. On the way, I had to get a shot of the wake from this high vantage. I spent about a half hour at the Flow Rider, getting some stills but mostly video. I’m going to put together a wipeout compilation after I’m home, but here was one of the better stills I got. After a quick lunch in the Windjammer, I went back to the pool and found a nice little hallway between the solarium and gym, with a handful of chairs and relatively empty. It was still open to the sea, so I spent an hour there going through the previous day’s pics and cleaning them up. After that I went back to my cabin to recharge my phone and work on the post for Day 2; you all know how that ended. 😓 During all this time, my wife and daughters were off doing their own things. My wife checked out the t-shirt sale (2 for $30) and grabbed a shirt for me and one for D14. After that, she got in another workout at the gym. Meanwhile, the girls did some homework (D17) and drawing (D14) before going out. D14 tried the kids’ arcade and couldn’t figure out how to get the credits onto her Sea Pass card; I wasn’t much help here, I’m afraid, so that visit was a dud. D17 went to the rock wall with my wife after she was done with her workout. Only D17 actually climbed, my wife said she did well. While they were out, after the Day Two posting mess, I went to the casino for a little bit and tried my luck at the slots; as expected, they were not my friend and I lost the small bit I’d brought out of my total gambling budget. Now it was time for Chef’s Table! I got dressed in my suit, even though the invite said smart casual, and it was a good thing! The other six taking part were all dressed the same way, so clearly we all agreed smart casual made NO sense for this event. The three couples I met, two from southern NJ and one from Texas, we’re all great company for dinner and we had lots of good conversation while thoroughly enjoying the meal and all the wines. I’ll be writing about that separately, it’s a post all to itself! My wife and girls had regular dinner, and while wifey wanted to see the ice show, the girls were both tired and went to bed after dinner, around 9:15. I was back from Chef’s Table not long after, and since it was after the start of the second ice show we decided to wander the upper decks, try see the stars around the still nearly-full moon, and see the pool deck at night. My plan to go to the helipad with her was scrapped when I found the gate leading to it on deck 5’s outside track closed. A staff member passing by said the winds were too strong and passengers weren’t being allowed on at night for safety reasons. Hopefully we’ll get a chance on one of our remaining nights! My wife and I then took the elevator to the uppermost decks; even with the lights from the pool area killing our night vision, we got a great view of the moon on the water. I was also able to see the Big Dipper, and what was either Venus or Jupiter below the moon, but nothing else. After taking in the moon, we checked out the pool and agreed it’s really pretty at night. I got one decent shot of the Solarium area using my night shot app, but nothing else. Mat this point we went back to our cabin. We had this guy as our towel animal this night: I wasn’t tired yet and decided I wanted another crack at the casino, but this time at the craps tables. I couldn’t make it a late night because we had to be up early for our excursion in St. Kitts, so I set myself a 1-hour timer. Craps worked out much better for me, and made back everything I’d lost on the slots. It was a good way to end the day, and I went to bed feeling a lot better about Day Three than I had Day Two. Next is St. Kitts, where we’ll be swimming with dolphins and crossing a major item off my wife’s bucket list!
  19. 10 points
    @WAAAYTOOO you see this?! Now they are both trying to suck up and get into @Matt's good graces! Sorry, @twangster, I think this photo of Joe is one up on your balcony shot lol 😜
  20. 10 points
    So we ended up spending about four hours today out at the nearby public beach. As planned, we took the Beach Link trolley bus from Publix. On the way, we passed by the port and saw Navigator of the Seas at the far end of the port, and also Royal Princess docked very close to where we were driving past. We were all kind of awe-struck at how big Royal Princess was, and then I quickly realized that she was about the same size as Navigator, and Freedom would be even bigger! I honestly have no idea what my reaction when I finally see her up close is going to be. We got off the trolley at a park a short stretch past where the trolley’s route left the beach area; we didn’t realize until we passed that final stretch of beach that this trolley line doesn’t have fixed stops, and you need to tell the driver when you want to get off. We had to walk a little ways to get back to the beach, but not that far. The stretch of beach we ended up on was great. Not at all crowded, plenty of space to just stand at the water’s edge and take in the view, as well as a lot of pictures that included some very nice family snaps. Some of those also confirm I’m no bot. 😉 At one point we saw a big flock of pelicans flying in formation. I always thought they were more solitary birds and didn’t do that, so this was quite surprising. It was like watching the Canada Geese migrating, only these birds were slimmer and far less obnoxious as they flew by. All of these shots were taken using my new telephoto lens. It’s really good in these well-lit conditions, definitely better than it did with the test pics I took at home. Surprisingly, I also really like how panoramic photos with the tele lens come out. I think these are a lot better than what I get with the iPhone 6s Plus’ base lens. After deciding we’d had enough time at the beach, we walked about a mile back up the main road and found a little place to grab lunch, which was right next door to a Haagen Dasz store that we also took advantage of. After that, we caught the trolley back to our hotel, rested a little and cleaned up, then grabbed dinner. (Outback again, as I’d scored a Dine Rewards discount on our prior visit) Now we’re packing up for tomorrow, when we will finally be boarding Freedom of the Seas. I have my alarm set for 7 AM so we have plenty of time to shower, grab breakfast, pack up the last of our things, and hail a Lyft to get us to the port around 10:30 or 10:45. We all want as much time as possible on board before the crowds!
  21. 10 points
    T minus 4 days until embarkation... I woke up this morning, realized that tomorrow we board our flight, and started singing, "One more dawn! One more day! OOOOONE DAAAAAAAAY MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE!" My wife joined in. Younger daughter (D14), while getting ready for school, cried out, "Just one more day of school! It's almost here!" She was up until midnight last night getting the school work assigned for break, plus the extra days we're taking off before and after, out of the way. Older daughter (D17), on the ride to school, "God, I can't wait for this day to be done and to finally see some palm trees!" She's been dealing with even heavier loads of spring break assignments and work intended for the extra days we'll be out. Such is the price for taking five AP classes her senior year. 😔 For me, wife, and D14, the bags are mostly packed; just need to get a few final things in there tomorrow morning. D17 hasn't even started yet thanks to the aforementioned workload from school, but will "git 'er dun" tonight. She wanted to be sure most of that work was taken care of before we left, but she'll still have to bring some school stuff and spend a little time each morning working on what's left. This time tomorrow, we'll be pulling into one of the long-term parking lots next to EWR and taking the shuttle to the terminal!
  22. 9 points
    Day4 Today port was La Spezia. We slept late today until 8:30 am as we have not booked any tour.From all our stops in Italy La Spezia is my favorite one as it’s a nice small city which you can tour around without any issues. To go to the port gate, you must take a shuttle bus as ship passengers are not allowed to walk inside the port. Las Spezia is also the gate to Pisa (45 minutes ride) and Florence (90 minutes ride) .If you never been to Florence I would highly recommend to take a tour to this renascence city with many amazing sites to visit.Pisa on the other hand have only one attraction, and yes it is the leaning tower of Pisa , you come , you take the photo (with thousands of other people) you pose as if you support the tower and create a face book picture exactly like million people before you 😊 So I would go to Pisa only on the way to Florence. Another excellent option would be visiting Cinque Terre , its actually villages that are built on the cliff , they are very colorful and best view from the sea side although visiting one of them over the land is very nice.You can always take the tour from the ship but if you want to save some money you can find some tours operator in the port (There are many vendors inside the port building).The train station is 15-20 minutes from the port. The best way to save money (for sure if you have 4 people in your group) will be to rent a car and drive were ever you want, for example you can drive to one of the small towns near by, park outside (parking available on the road side using parking tickets machines, make sure you bring enough euro coins) , please note some of the villages/towns are not allow cars inside. or even travel to Pisa (many parking near by). If you choose to rent a car please note , most of the cars that are offered in Italy (and in many other Europe countries) has manual transmission , the automatic one are the more luxurious cars. Car rental with insurance (automatic transmission) will cost around 100$ per day. There are several rental cars in the city , I think the nearest one is the Avis which is 15 minute walk from the shuttle dropped. I used this option last time I visit this port (We were group of four), I rented the car few month ahead, took the shuttle , walked to the renting facilities and picked the car (do not expect to see US car renting like facilities , its actually travel agency with cars parked on the street). Once I picked the car I returned to the port to pick the rest of the group, It was quite easy. For sure it will be helpful if you will have access to Waze or other navigating application. If you just want to stay around the town you can walk and enjoy the seaside some parks and local restaurants There are many shopping option around (usually small shops) , remember shops can be closed between 1:30 PM To 3 or 4 PM for siesta time. . There is also a mall in walking distance (1 mile from the shuttle drop). We walked in the city for a while and at the end we went to the mall to complete some of the must things in Italy : Eat a pizza, drink espresso, eat a pasta and eat authentic Italian ice cream. There were many shops which offered mid session discounts ,My spouse bought some shoes and some T-shirts while I went to the supermarket (the local Walmart) and bought some aged balsamic vinegar and wine. We eat a wired combo of pizza which come with soft drink and espresso then went back to the ship (walking). I love to be on the ship during port day , excellent time to relax and use the different facilities, its also a good option to take some pictures. For dinner, we choose this time the WJ. They had a lovely chocolate fountain, but I should have complained to someone that they located it in front of the window which facing the sun, it is bad for taking pictures, how inconsiderateness of them. Later we went to sea the new ice show 1877, we came 10 minutes before and found some front seat , I must say they excel themselves , it was amazing , the effects is something out of the world although the level of skating was less than other shows over the different ships , maybe they need to run it for a while. Here some pictures from the show , for better quality you will need to wait for @twangster Trans Atlantic cruise in October \ \ Some observations: Internet is fast all around the ship, We have only 5100 people on board which can explain how there are always tables available in the WJ (tip , try to go to the middle of the WJ) The break room is not available yet. The CD is Michelle , BB is on the ship but he is not doing the morning show or most of the activities . The ship looks really well maintained and not showing her age at all
  23. 9 points
    Many of you already hit the important notes, but just a reminder.... A Passport card will not get you out of the country if you get stuck there A photo of your passport is as useful as a photo of cash Leaving your passport on the ship while you are in port is useless In short, invest in a passport and bring it with you every time you leave the ship. I feel better now
  24. 9 points
    Day 1 Barcelona , part one Wow that was a long day, It started at 5 AM, hey who can sleep late during embarkation day, I started to browse the internet thanking someone that decided to wait with the fireworks until we arrived Barcelona. When my spouse finally waked up we organize our suitcases and the backpacks with the water and wine. Quick breakfast ,some last minute shopping for some stuff we found that we forgot and we did our way to the port. The drive took about 10 minutes and around 25 $ including the tip. We arrive to the port around 10:30 AM , security and check in took about 10 minutes (just validating our CC) but the ship was not ready to board , they said it will be ready around 11:30AM but I knew better (I read this blog after all) and waited in line. Funny thing about the terminal , once you pass security you arrive to a small mall with several shops , one of the shopssells wines and water, which mean you can bring to the ship as much wine as you want unless they check the wine for you , I forgot to ask as I already had two bottles (and 8 bottles of water +4 Sodas) , well will find out next time. They open the gate to general boarding at 10:50 , so up we went. On deck 5 they gave some free sparkling wine which was nice. First thing we done after we finished the first glass of wine was to go to the central park area to find an open restaurant so we can reserve the BOGO (again thank you RC blog). CG was opened and I booked as planned Wonderland for first night and Hooked for the second one (you know , for the research) , no issues and no extra cost was required for the BOGO deal. Next thing we done was to eat something in the WJ , after all breakfast was a fade memory as it was two hours ago , one may call it second breakfast (Hobbits maybe) WJ was quite empty, lots of open tables. Food was the regular WJ food, Hamburgers, some carving station, pasta station , vegs and even Indian food. We went to take some pictures of the pool deck but since it was rainy we did not stayed there too much time and continue our tour inside. At 1 PM we went to the room , I really wanted to get rid of our bags has for some reason carry 10 bottles around the ship is not that comfortable. The room is organized very nicely and feel bigger than the room we had few month ago on INDY. It was time to try something new, so we went one floor up to studio B were they had the laser tag. We had to wait few minutes until more people will arrive and started the session. The way they set it up is using some inflatables dividers over the Studio B floor. They divide us into two groups (aliens and robots) and a 10 minutes session started. It was fun and full of energy but our team lost ☹ which made us decide we need to try it again 😊 . I think it is a very nice addition to the ship. Like many other activities its better to try and do at the first day before everyone finds it. To relax after running in the laser tag we went to the SPA to add our name to the raffle , they took us a to a tour in the thermal suite and it looked very nice so we decide to buy the pass for the week (200 $ for couple) you know , for the research … We thought what to do next and it was time to check El Loco fresh , I took a beef Taco (the option are beef , chicken, pork , rice and beans) topped it with some guacamole and fresh cream. I know we just were in WJ two hours ago but hey it was for the research … It was quite ok , not Sabor level but still a nice free option.
  25. 9 points
    Day 7 – Labadee We took advantage of our later port arrival to sleep in a bit. Where in my case, by "sleep in" I mean I naturally woke up at 7 instead of having an alarm jarring me awake at 6. Following my now daily ritual for port days, I went onto the balcony after grabbing my phone and lenses to see what was in view. I thought maybe that Royal had actually routed us to Isla Nublar this time, and instead of lounging in a cabana I'd be running from T-Rexes. But after about a half hour, it clear that this was no dino-topia... Especially not after spying the tiny rowboat making its way past us... When we had gotten close enough, the ship started turning around to actually dock, and I could see the pier and village of Labadee ahead of us. I had my YOLO shirt from RCBlog on, so I kept it all in stride... (#RCBlog_Supporter, #Chillin, #Mellow) Everyone else was up at this point, and we did need to get to breakfast before my wife and the girls had to get to their scheduled zip line run. So we headed down and once again just took advantage of the "cereal bar" in the MDR to have a quick meal without the Windjammer crowds. This time around, we got to the MDR a little late and had to share a table. Our table-mates were two elderly ladies who had no plans for Labadee, having "outgrown that stuff some time ago." After breakfast, we did the usual trip back to the cabins to sunscreen up and get ready to head out. Unlike the other times, we had a persistent wood block tapping coming in through our balcony windows. We quickly realized it was from the little band that had set up on the pier. With the window closed, the only thing we could hear was that wood block; after opening the balcony door we could hear the whole group, which was a lot less irritating for us. We ended up being a little too leisurely with getting up and ready, and found ourselves hurrying down the pier so all the ladies didn't miss their check-in time for the zip line. After we found where they had to go, I took their bags and made my way to Nellie's Bach and the cabana check-in desk there. I did have to ask a couple of times for how to get there and where to go, but I eventually got there and was checked in. I let them know that not only would my family be there, but we had also invited our table-mates and they should be expected later in the morning. Our attendant was a man named Fritz, and he led me to our cabin, which was the next-to-last one down the line. I had a chance later in the day to confirm that at least for these cabanas, they are not reserved based on when you booked, just on when you show up to claim one. So the earlier you get there, the better the cabana you'll be given as far as its position in the line and the view you get. Ours was definitely not at all shabby... After putting everyone's bags down in our cabana and taking the pics above, I went out and found Fritz, and asked him to please call one of the golf carts for me so I could go and ride the Dragon's Tail coaster before the lines had a chance to build up. It took about ten minutes for a cart to show up, but that was fine; I wasn't in any hurry at that point. Once it arrived, I was quickly whisked to the check-in desk for the coaster, where I filled out my waiver and got my all-day wrist band. While walking the short distance from there to the actual ride entrance, I was surprised to see a wild dog come into view. It was somewhat timid and didn't let me get too close, but I was still able to get a shot. I rode the coaster a total of four times over the span of about 45 minutes. I recorded every one of them, but I haven't yet reviewed them and decided which is best to share. Two of the times I went fairly slowly; the second time was a little too slow, as I had applied the brake for so long that I almost stopped dead on the track about half-way through! The other two times I went as fast as I was comfortable with while holding my phone (braced in the ShoulderPod grip) in one hand, and using the brake with the other. It was still plenty fast for me, and I definitely had a blast, as well as getting my money's worth out of my all-day pass. I'll try and get one of those videos up on YouTube to share here this weekend. By this point it was noon, and I was ready to go back to the cabana. The people at the coaster couldn't hail one for me, so I wandered over to the beach bed checkin spot on Adrenaline Beach and asked if they could do it. They could indeed, and paged someone over the walkie-talkies they had there. While I waited for my ride, I attempted to speak to them in French, dredging up what I could remember of my high-school classes to fumble out a basic conversation (prefaced with me letting them know in French that I honestly didn't speak it well but was hoping to have a little chance to practice). They were pretty patient with me and fell back to English when it was clear I just didn't understand / couldn't translate quickly enough what they were saying to me. But it did come back to me to a surprising degree, and I even understood when they said in French that their Creole language was much easier to learn since it didn't have all the grammatical rules and other complications that "regular" French has. They explained that they all had to learn both French and English in school, so they were at least conversant in all three, if not 100% fluent. By this time my golf cart had arrived. I thanked the gents I'd been speaking with for the conversation, and then hopped on to go back to my cabana. I got there to find that my wife, the girls, and our table-mates were all there. Everyone who'd been on the zip line absolutely loved it, and none of them found themselves scared all that much. They also said the jolt at the end wasn't as bad as the videos we'd watched beforehand made it look, so maybe the next time we're in Labadee I'll give it a try. They wanted to take video and made sure they had hand straps for their phones, but they were told that only head-mounted GoPros were being allowed since everyone had to hold on to the zipline bars with two hands. Now I was thirsty at this point, and Fritz had just showed up to deliver some drinks for Debbi and Matthew;. I didn't hesitate, and ordered my first Labadoozie of the day (with alcohol, natch). D14 already had a drink in a hollowed-out pineapple that she bought with her OBC, and my wife and D17 were just drinking the Evian that came with our cabana, so I was the only one left empty-handed. Fritz came back in short order, and I tried it out. As you can see, I totally hated it. After I had a chance to properly sample my beverage, we asked Fritz to call up another golf cart so we could grab some food from the buffet. Our driver was great, staying nearby so that we could grab what we wanted and then eat it back in the cabana without having to hoof it all the way there. The food was just OK for me, but I'm not a big barbecue fan; everyone else thought it was great. With lunch out of the way, the girls and my wife went to the Dragon's Tail coaster to try and get a couple of rides in. While they were off doing that, Debbi, Matt, and I went into the lagoon and enjoyed the water. It was very odd after a while; we all kept feeling cold patches going by while we stood there, so the water alternated between feeling nice and warm and feeling freezing cold. I eventually got out and decided to take another time-lapse while I warmed back up. Wade made another visit and gave his seal of approval... The ladies came back by this point, having only been able to get in a couple of rides on the coaster due to the long lines that had formed. Lesson learned -- ride the coaster early if you have an all-day pass, or you won't get nearly as much of your money's worth! The two girls and Matthew then went to the village to find some trinkets to buy. We adults just hung around in the cabana and enjoyed the lazy day, chatting and relaxing. I had another couple of Labadoozies, because why not? D17 came back from the village feeling robbed. She tried to haggle, didn't know how to properly do it, and ended up paying the full $25 asked for the two necklaces she wanted. D14 did a bit better, getting a carved bird for $12 (original asking price $20). Matthew was an old hand at this, and got 6 necklaces / bracelets for $4 each. The girls decided to vent their frustrations over haggling with a dip in the lagoon. I had seen a number of birds flittering around and tried to get some pics, but only got this one fellow as he gathered material for a nest... I did manage to get a shot of D14's "emotional support chicken" as well.. And just when I'd given up hope of catching any more birds, I got two in one shot! By this time, the cabanas were being cleared out and the beach was empty of people. We got the not-too-subtle GTFO hint and grabbed our stuff (plus the un-consumed Evian bottles) and started heading back. I tipped Fritz for the four of us, and Debbi tipped him some more for herself and Matthew. And we managed to score one last golf cart ride back to the ship, with the same driver who had gotten us to the buffet and back; my wife tipped him as well for taking such good care of us. We did the short walk back to the ship, once again among the very last to board (without being actual pier runners). We really loved having that cabana. If I can score one at the same low price I got this one the next time we're in Labadee, I will definitely do that again. It made the day that much more pleasant and relaxing, especially since that day there was absolutely no wind or any breeze to cool things off. We had the shade of the cabana as well as the fan in it to help us keep cool all day. No sail-away pics or video this time, we were already facing out to the ocean and sail-away was incredibly fast. I also missed the sunset again this time, but my wife got a nice shot from what we think was the deck 4 jogging path... Dinner this night included tiramisu for dessert. Now I've been on a quest for the best tiramisu for a long time, and I had high expectations. I have to say, when it came out and I took my first bite, I was... disappointed is the only word for it. It seemed bland to me, but my wife and D14 both said I was nuts and that it had really great flavor, and was one of the best they'd had. So, I did what anyone would do... I had a second helping. You know... for research purposes. I kid you not, it was night and day. That second piece was what I was expecting from a good tiramisu. Jigger was as shocked as the rest of us, and he guessed that because my entree that night was extremely savory and I was drinking some Zinfandel with it, my palate hadn't cleared enough to properly taste the dessert. By the time the second portion arrived, I'd had some additional sweet (a bite of my wife's chocolate panna cotta) and also some water, so I was better set for properly tasting my second helping. After dinner, my wife and I tried going to the helipad again to try and finally see some stars. And we hit the jackpot! The sky was almost completely clear of clouds, and from the helipad the stars just shined down by the hundreds. We saw more than we'd ever seen before, and could even see their actual colors as well! I'd never seen just how orange Betelgeuse, in Orion, actually is, or how blue Rigel is compared to other stars. We just sat there for almost an hour with a few other adults who'd come out before us, everyone in awe at this amazing view. And then the teenagers arrived... First a couple, keeping relatively quiet but using their flashlights on their phones. Then a bunch more, and several of them stupidly trying to take pictures with their flashes going off. Within five minutes, a deckhand came out and escorted every one of us off the helipad, telling us it was closed. Damn kids. We stayed up to watch the 70s party in the Royal Promenade from the chairs in our elevator lobby. It was OK, but I was glad i wasn't down there in the massive crowd. We called it after about 45 minutes, since it seemed the show was going to go on a bit longer and we'd had enough. Everyone else went to bed, but I wanted another crack at the craps table. Once again, it was cold and no one was doing better than winning a little bit followed by losses. I stopped after I'd lost another $33 on top of the prior night's $25, which was actually perfect -- counting the $50 I'd lost on the slots a few days earlier, I was exactly at break-even. I figured fortune was sending me a pretty strong signal, and decided I was done with the casino for this trip. I went back to my cabin, where I found a little seal pup waiting for me... Drink package tally for today -- I definitely made up for the prior day's shortfall!! Fresh-squeezed OJ and cappuccino at breakfast Three Labadoozies -- far too tasty to say no to these! ("Lord, show me how to say no to this!") 1800 Reposado margarita for sail-away, from the Schooner Bar Ravenswood Zinfandel at Vintages Marchesi de'Frescobaldi, Toscana, "Rèmole" at MDR with dinner
  26. 9 points
    I am making no promises. I have only my iPad so not really equipped to create a full cruise blog but I will do what I can without interrupting the groove of the cruise. I’m not much of a picture-taker and I don’t even know how to post a pic so probably won’t have photos unless I can figure that out. Today was travel day. Left DC at 5:30 AM. Wow. That is early ! ...but had an uneventful flight down. The air was very unsettled so it was a bumpy and turbulent ride but we made it. Since we are both status members with American Airlines, we always fly American. From DC, American does not fly nonstop to Fort Lauderdale so your choices are, nonstop to Miami or go through Charlotte. We chose to go through Charlotte this trip so we had 2 segments, but the flights were so close together that we basically got off the first leg and hustled to the gate for #2 with no time to spare. We are staying at the Residence Inn Airport and Cruiseport. While the hotel is very nice, there is absolutely nothing nearby unless you want Wendy’s or Dunkin Donuts and even with those, you would have to cross a busy highway to get over there. They do have a shuttle bus that picked us up from the airport and will take you to a couple of nearby restaurants or Publix market at no cost but that got old quickly. I don’t think I will stay here again. Dan used points for this room so at least the price was right. They only have a complimentary happy hour Mon-Wed so nothing for us there. There is a complimentary breakfast which we will check out tomorrow morning. There is shuttle service ($8 pp) from the hotel to the port so we are scheduled to leave here at 10 AM. The Genie is expecting us at 10:30 so we may be a bit early. We’re in for the night at this point. Very excited about boarding Allure in the morning ! We were on Allure over Thanksgiving last year but not in Star Class. This will be our first time in Star Class on any ship other than Harmony. It will be interesting to compare the service on the different ships. They’re calling for rain tomorrow so it might be a wet start. Our friend Jim flew in much later this afternoon and is staying elsewhere so we will not see him until after we board tomorrow. It’s always an adventure when you vacation with one or more of the Jim twins.
  27. 9 points
    Oops. I though I deleted that last one. Meant to, anyway.
  28. 9 points
    Yippee ! I did it ! I will have to practice with the captions.
  29. 9 points
    Day 4 - St Thomas Departure I had a 6pm MTD reservation but decided to skip it in favor of the sunset. Not a bad decision as it turns out. It started out pretty great but as the sun went down further it got a bit better. Looking back towards St Thomas with the Windjammer Al Fresco seating area: At this point the sun was below below the horizon but it begin to illuminate the clouds and I just couldn't stop taking pictures. As it became darker the colors became more vibrant. Show nearly over, I grabbed one more photo with the deck 12 slide in the foreground. These were all taken with an iPhone 8. I think they turned out okay.
  30. 9 points
    Windjammer Breakfast Located deck 11 aft Two egg stations, one for fried eggs and one for omelettes. That's Kristen, my assistant wait staff during dinner in the MDR. The egg stations use a ticket system unlike from what I''ve seen on other ships. You place your order and are handed a ticket with a two digit number. You are free to wander around and gather other food then come back when your number is up and collect your order. It works quite well. Mmmm, bacon. Several flavors of pancakes kept warm under cover. Lots of fresh fruit. Smoked Mackerel and Smoked Salmon. Al Fresco Seating with aft views If you've ever eaten in a Windjammer on any ship, you'll quickly feel at home on Serenade with the added bonus of outdoor seating.
  31. 9 points
    I use a zippo when I try to paint... to light it on fire.
  32. 8 points
    Day 7 , As we went to sleep quite late the day before we waked only around 10:30 AM (which is achievement for us now days) we went to the WJ to eat MP style breakfast , for some reason in the WJ they call it lunch. The rest of the day was spent between deck 15, Laser Tag , Ice , puzzle solving (second round) and yes also casino (which was nice to us) We decided to dedicate the last day to try and visit places we did not had time to check before on the ship and here some of it : Dazzle It seems they had some more space to Sorento's The since lab in the adventure ocean : They add vending machines on deck 15 , the only problem is (beside the price) is the operation hours which are very limited and contradicts the logic behind the vending concept. On deck 15 they also added a charging station for cellphones , very useful I think. Central park at night : Some arts : MDR dinner : And starting to prepare for the next cruise
  33. 8 points
    Day 2 part 1 After a few hours of sleep (although I consider sleeping as waste of cruise time) we looked at the window and saw we already in Palma de Mallorca , second look showed us that the forecast was not that accurate as instead of nice sunny day it looked quite gloomy, or so we thought As we did not have special plans for Palma we decided to take it easy and postponed our travel to the city.We took the regular breakfast at the WJ , I order some eggs (sunny side up , hey at least I thought here I will have some signs of sun) As the weather was not that nice yet and since we already visited last year the main attraction of the city we just turned it to a sea day and stayed on the ship.If it’s your first visit to Palma , I will not skip it , after all it is a nice small city with some interesting building and a nice cathedral.First thing we done was to use our spa access (yes the one from the research) , we did a quick check in , got our scrub packages and of we went to the thermal suite.We used the wet sauna which felt very good, helped to ease some of the non-sleeping enough pains.We tried also the heated chairs which was very nice. We were the only one there. As the spa team were kind enough to allow us to take the rube out we decide to do another thing new. believe or not until this cruise (our sevens one) we still have not any of the Jacuzzi's or the pools in any of ships. We do not feel that comfortable with the public Jacuzzi which are usually very crowded but as it is a very new ship and most of the people went to the city we thought it is a good opportunity to try it. So quick shower in the spa and of we went to the pool deck, we choose one of the jacuzzies with a nice sea view that was empty (from people not from water, I am not that weirdo). By that time the sun came out and it became a very nice day. We spent some time in the water and went to enjoy some PinaColadas near by (10 $ each, not sure how they got to it but after gratitude it was 23 something for both). We took another quick shower, changed and went to try another activity we never done (and I am not talking about napkin folding class) , yes it was time to go down by the ultimate abyss. No lines at all (wired for a sea day no ?) just two girls that went down screaming all the way which made us think if we are going to do the right thing but no way back. We both went down the slides on the same time , I can tell you it is much scary to watch the boardwalk from the top of the glass floor than to do the ride itself. It not felt too fast and was fun, will do it again for sure.As we already nearby we thought to walk for a while on the running truck to accumulate some steps and burn some of the calories before heading to the WJ for lunch.After resting a while in the room we visit the C&A event which was conducted at the aqua theater.So around 1500 CA , 900 gold , 18 Pinnacle , the person with most points had 2180 cruising points. End of day2 part one
  34. 8 points
    Day 8 (Sea Day) It’s the final day of our cruise. We all agreed we were just going to be doing our own thing, since the girls had homework to keep working on, I had photos to edit and review, and my wife had her massage this day. I invited D14 to join me in the MDR for breakfast since we were both up kind of early, but she said she wanted to go to the Wind-jah-mehr. Her loss; Debbi had told us earlier on how sometimes they did a Chocolate Breakfast, and guess what today was? 😋😋😋😋😋 I had chocolate pancakes that were reeeeaaalllly tasty, along with bacon, sausage, over easy eggs, and proper hash browns (not triangle shaped, but the shredded potatoes formed into a nice patty). I shared the table with a couple from Michigan and another from Kentucky, who were there with their grandkids. We had a nice conversation and I actually ran into the couple from Michigan later in the day. After breakfast I got my usual morning cappuccino and headed back to the cabin. My wife was up and getting ready for her massage at 10:30. We chatted for a bit, then she dashed off to the Windjammer for a quick bite before going to the spa. D17 went to the Logo Shop sale, and while she didn’t pick up any t-shirts she did pick up one of the long-sleeved shirts (hoodies?) they had on display. I also went down to check out the sale as I was interested in the scale model; while I thought the $32 asked (not a sale price) was semi-reasonable, I realized we have zero space for it in our luggage or carry-ons. 😢🐼 After the logo shop, I decided I’d get some work done on the photos, but I needed a pick-me-up first. Time to hit the Bloody Mary station! I ordered a spicy one with Grey Goose, horseradish, jalapeños, celery, and bacon (because everything is better with bacon). I sipped on this while doing my photo editing from the balcony and taking in the ocean view, getting one more hit of that deep cobalt. After a while, I remembered I needed to swing by the Schooner Bar to capture another item for my “photo safari”; a pair of collected ships-in-bottles that I passed a couple dozen times walking from the bar into the casino, but somehow never noticed until the day before when my wife and I were down there chatting and people watching. I also picked up a more literal “safari” capture, a rare and seldom-seen lion... D14 had her cupcake decorating class coming up at this point, and I decided since I was already on the right deck that I’d walk over to the cupcake place and watch while she did it. They were given two cupcakes, a bag of icing, and some candies; this was magically transformed over the span about an hour into a pupcake. D14 did a great job, and staying true to herself she deviated from the steps for making the face, paws, and tail so that it looked more like a Pomeranian than the plainer puppy-like cupcake the rest of them made. We went back to the cabin after this to store her pupcake in the room fridge, to enjoy after lunch. My wife was back from her massage, and when she saw me she exclaimed, “Hey hon! I got stoned!” Yup, she used some of her OBC to add hot stones to her Swedish massage. Cost $20 and plus extra tip, and she totally loved it. D14 and I had to rush now so we could make it to our planned lunch at Sabor as they would be closing their doors in about 20 minutes. We’d both had big breakfasts and wanted to keep lunch light, so we just had the guacamole and two of the small plates: A double order of the chicken stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon, which were sooooo good; plus an order of the spicy beef empanadas, which we found just so so. As for the guacamole, we agreed that it was good but not mind-blowing. Could be because it was closing time and they rushed it out; maybe it was because it was the end of the cruise and they didn’t have as good a selection of avocados; maybe it’s because we make our own kind of regularly and tend to make on the spicier side; but we just didn’t did it as awesome as we’d hoped for. I also got a sweet & spicy margarita, which was very tasty. The Prefect Margarita wasn’t listed in today’s featured ones, and didn’t see it listed elsewhere on the lunch menu. It was fine, I’d wanted to try this one as well. I just wish it had come with my meal instead of at the end; we had finished off our guacamole and the small plates, and turned down the offer of dessert, and our waiter was bringing the check when I finally had to remind him I hadn’t gotten my drink order. He apologized profusely, and I’m guessing it was again because we came in so close to closing and they were trying to wrap things up and start the dinner slot prep. He brought out my margarita and also the check. Because we only had appetizers and no dessert, he gave us 20% off (the check showed a “crew-bar” notation for this). I tipped him the full 20% of our meal’s original cost in thanks. After this, it was to meet up with our MDR table mates for a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity. We had some trouble finding a place to play that wasn’t totally full of young kids, but finally found a spot in “Cloud Nine” room of the Viking Crown Lounge. Hilarity ensued as we played several rounds, with D17 snagging the win with 8 black cards in a clutch comeback. Now we come to a matter of some unpleasantness. I finally tried Sorrento’s pizza. I knew everyone here wanted to get my own opinion as a cruise noob and a Jersey pizza snob, so I decided I’d better just do it now or there would be a lot of disappointed readers. I got one slice of the specialty pizza offered this day, a cherry pepper pizza with sausage and pepperoni. My slice didn’t seem to have much of the latter two items, if any. I braved myself, and took my first bite. I tried to be neutral, and reserve judgement. Really, I did. I will say this: It wasn’t god-awful. But this pic pretty much sums up my overall feeling. It was utterly flavorless. The crust was beyond bland; it didn’t taste like there was even any salt in it, and it barely had any crispness. The cheese was also “just there”, and there was no sauce to speak of. The only part with any flavor was the cherry peppers, which actually had heat and tasted like real cherry peppers. There Might have been a tiny bit of pepperoni or sausage in the first bite, but I couldn’t taste anything like either of those. My mouth was crying for relief from this assault, so I walked over to the Bull & Bear Pub and got a Paulaner Doppelbock, because you still drink beer with pizza. And this was something with actual flavor that could wash away the blandness. Before dinner, my wife, D17, and I all went back up to the top pool lounge above Deck 12 to catch one last sunset. While we waited for the sun to get lower, my wife and I took some pics of each other. After this, we watched and waited as the sun got lower. For the second time, D14 totally missed out. It was by far the most spectacular sunset of the entire trip, and I had to get a ton of pics to show the progression, especially as the sun was eclipsed by the clouds on the horizon and then broke though one final time before disappearing over the Earth’s curve. When I first saw the sun break through again, I quickly switched to my tele lens and got this stunner before switching back to the wide lens for the other pics. After this stunning show, we headed down to our final dinner in the MDR. It was Debbi’s birthday, and we were also making this the “anniversary” day since we won’t be on a ship in May. Jigger, Danny, and our head waiter gave us a rousing “Happy Birthday” / “Happy Anniversary” performance, accompanied by a slice of cheesecake for each of us. My wife doesn't care for cheesecake, so I ended up having three desserts that night; a bit much after a goat cheese & tomato tart and pappardelle carbonara. We went back up to the room and finished packing the bags that we were putting in the hallway for transport to the terminal. We got #29 on our bands, which was only one 15-minute slot earlier than the last group would have been, so we were glad to have a leisurely morning ahead of us. We realized not long after we got back to our room that I had forgotten to bring down the WOW envelope for Jigger and Danny. So while everyone else kept packing, I grabbed it and shot back down to the MDR. They were both still there, so I was able to hand it to them personally. We’d also left Miriam a WOW envelope as well. We could see that she had picked it up when she came in to do turndown for us. We got the last things packed, and had all the luggage out by 10:30. I didn’t take a picture of the hall, didn’t want a reminder of the sad time coming soon. I tried going to the helipad one last time, but the gate was closed and there would be no last viewing of the stars. 😢🐼 I called it a night and went to bed. Drink package tally: Fresh squeezed orange juice from MDR 2 grande cappuccinos at Cafe Promenade (morning and afternoon) Spicy Bacon Bloody Mary Sweet and Spicy margarita at Sabor Paulaner Salvator at Bull & Bear My usual Chianti at dinner (MDR) Random notes: I got the online checkin notice for the hotel, and got that squared away; I was able to request a digital key for my phone this time, so I decided to try it out. This wasn’t offered with our original stay, so it must have been part of the lock maintenance they were doing during our last visit. This was written during my lunch hour. It’s weird to be back at work.
  35. 8 points
    if I had to choose it would be Otto Bang capt of the Liberty he was so kind taking my wheelchair bound daughter for a personal tour of the ship
  36. 8 points
    One more set. Then I have to start getting ready for formal night.
  37. 8 points
    I’m afraid to get too many pix at once. Matt is going to block me from this site !
  38. 8 points
    Hey, everybody! What a great day we had yesterday. Too much champagne and fireball so I am having fireball’s revenge today but it was awesome while it was happening! We had lunch at Chops and dinner at Izumi. We went to the Aqua Theater show and the Genie kindly reserved Jim’s place right with us. I really like Charlie. Great Genie. Our suite is incredible. This SLS is a tiny bit smaller than its companion next door and the balcony is definitely smaller but when you’re talking about “small” it’s all about relativity. The suite is beautiful and the balcony is huge. I’m going to try and post some pix but since I have no f’n idea what I’m doing I may lose the entire post, which would ruin my entire day ! I’m no Twang-bot or Sabrina so please don’t judge by those standards ! I will post over on Tony’s Club Royale thread, too, but just wanted to mention that I believe that Tony’s horrific experience on Enchantment was a one-off and unfortunate mishap. We were given all of the CR privileges that we expected, including free drinks and no 5% fee. We were also promised that by the end of the cruise we would be given our tear level in the new program. On another issue of recent contention, our D+ list of amenities include 2 free days of Voom or a dollars off discount (can’t find the paper at the moment) so it seems that the panic over maybe losing those free days is either premature or unwarranted -at least, here on Allure. i have run out of time (blackjack tournament) so I’m going to have to make the brave attempt to insert a photo later on in the day. The thought of wiping out this post (so much pecking !) has brought a bead of sweat to my brow so I’m going to “submit” before anything can go wrong !
  39. 8 points
    For a new cruiser like myself it's great to see that you are NOT posting everyday, as this can only mean you are busy enjoying yourself and have no time to post.
  40. 8 points
    Day 7 - St Kitts We arrived ahead of schedule to a warm and beautiful day. Today's excursion will be "St Kitts Panoramic Drive" booked through Royal Caribbean. Our meeting point is at the end of the pier along with many other excursions starting around the same time. We boarded our bus and met Nigel our guide and driver today. He was very enjoyable. Fun fact - St Kitt's first traffic signals went into use approximately 4 weeks ago. Our driver is not impressed. We drove around town and Nigel pointed out several venues such as churches, government offices and the 'hotel with the red doors'. It's the local jail, built in 1840. The local saying when someone is acting badly and headed to jail they are said to be "going back in time, to 1840". Next is a memorial to Kittitians who died in the first world war. As a colony of England at the time islanders were called into the service of the Crown. Just up the road from here would be our first stop, Palm Court Gardens. It is a small boutique hotel that also serves as a 'resort for a day'. It's located across the bay from the ship and it's quite nice. While it doesn't have beach access, it is a nice resort with a pool and great views. Drink prices are pretty reasonable, $2.40 for most beers. The resort for a day price is $12 per person which includes WiFi, loungers and umbrellas. Our admission was included for the 15 minutes we were there. Back on the bus we continued our drive. We passed the Carib brewery, the local beer made on the island. We stopped near an Egret nesting area where there were hundreds of Egrets. The type of bush they nest in is full of sharp prickly branches they use to protect there nests from predators. We drove through some residential areas and talked about housing costs and the types of services such as education that Kittitians are provided. This took us to a lookout that had excellent views up and down the island. In the distance is Nevis which is almost always shrouded in clouds. To the left is the Atlantic ocean and to the right is the Caribbean Sea. We had 15 minutes to buy a beverage from local vendors or shop in their small tents. From here we drove down the hill and along "The Strip". This is a beach area that is a $3-4 per person taxi ride from the ship. Several bars and restaurants line the beach. While we didn't stop here to explore it looked like a very nice beach. I was broadcasting live on Periscope at this point so I didn't take any pictures. Here is the scope: https://www.pscp.tv/thetwangster/1zqJVrAwAonJB Back to the ship in just under 3 hours with plenty of time to browse the shops in the port area. While I am not always a tour bus kind of guy I'm glad I did this tour to see more of the island and learn of its history and culture. I'm seriously consider Palm Court Gardens for a future return to St Kitts.
  41. 8 points
    Day 5 - St. Croix St. Croix is the largest US Virgin Island but not as populous as St. Thomas where the capital of the USVI is located. I've always liked St. Croix because it isn't the same as St. Thomas. I like the fact it isn't as commercial and it's more relaxed here. I think it's the lack of a Diamond International store glaring you in the face or being forced to make your way through a maze of stores selling foreign made trinkets which are the exactly the same as the last port that differentiates the St Croix experience. Lacking that desire to force people through the maze means that excursions can pickup and drop off right at the ship. There is a free pier shuttle bus that just runs up and down the pier. Today I needed to get some work done so I just self-explored around the port area. Fort Frederick It does appear some trees have lost some vegetation but it's starting to come back. They had the street blocked off for pedestrian traffic only and some vendors were set up. Something that really struck me about the vendors here is how relaxed and easy going they all were. There was no attempt to entice you or drag you into their tent, no hard sales pitch. It was very refreshing and very enjoyable to stroll around without any of the usual 'harassment' that occurs in so many ports. You could approach, look around, say 'good morning' and it was all very pleasant. Time and again the merchandise was locally crafted and the person who made it was usually right there to talk about it. Having visited so many other ports I've built up an immunity that usually involves avoiding eye contact, moving quickly, showing no interest and politely repeating 'no thanks' over and over again. It was so refreshing to not require any of that today. I didn't make it over to the beach area right next to the port but from a distance I could see people using that area. This end of the island doesn't show the level of damage from hurricanes although you can see a few blue tarps on some roofs along the coastline. Talking with some of the vendors they confirmed it was more of a rain event with flooding than it was the wind event that St Thomas and St Johns had to deal with. Several miles up the coast I could see more beaches and jet skis playing in the water. Sadly I did have to get some work done today but this view is a lot better than my office back home. It was a very enjoyable experience and I really got the feeling the locals were all happy to see us and were very welcoming. I'd like to return one day soon and be able to try some excursions beyond the port area. It doesn't have the hustle and bustle of St Thomas or many other ports and I think that is a good thing. I'd like to come back before it becomes too popular with cruise ships and it loses it's slow, relaxed charm.
  42. 8 points
    Okay, enough of the small talk and niceties.... Now that you're a vet, we need one thing, and one thing only from you: A SORRENTO'S REPORT We all know that Jersey-ites are pizza connoisseurs, so we must have answers.
  43. 8 points
    #balconylife #chillin #rcblogsupporter
  44. 8 points
    Early start to the day after getting a solid sleep. Walking through the solarium and around the pool deck before sunrise I observed the pool attendants at work Here is the solarium on Serenade
  45. 8 points
    Here is a hyperlapse of the pool deck. I'm hoping to capture more of the ship in this way as it's a quick way to get a feel for a ship.
  46. 8 points
    Cabin Tour! Deck 7 Standard Balcony 7028 On the Radiance class the deck 7 balconies are extended with the extension open to the sides and above. I don't plan to be on my balcony in my underwear so this isn't an issue for me but if you are seeking a more private balcony experience you may want to accept a smaller balcony on a higher deck.
  47. 8 points
    Someone is realizing he’s about to be without his “hoo-man” for a long stretch...
  48. 8 points
    Joe, I feel like you are a chick that we all raised and now we're watching you learn to fly on your own ! So excited for you. I know we are all just recalling the awe that we felt when we drove up to our first cruise ship. Even the little ones are SOOOO impressive and when you first step foot through the Centrum and see all the shiny glass and metal. It takes your breath away. Freedom is a beautiful ship. You are definitely not starting small like we did. I know you're going to have a great time. You have chosen VERY well with all of your options. I think the adjoining balcony rooms are going to be WAY nicer than a suite. There will be much more room and 2 bathrooms. I think you've thought of everything ! ...but of course, you haven't. There will be something that you will learn on this cruise that you will use on your next...and so on and so on. It never ends. I still learn something new every single time I cruise. Wishing you fair winds and following seas. Look everyone - our little Joey is going off on his own !
  49. 8 points

    Adventurer Panoramic Room

    Enjoying the new rooms on Adventurer. They smell new
  50. 7 points
    Well somehow this never posted this morning. So backtrack and pretend it’s 9:30 AM. In the Wind-jab-mehr right now, getting some late lunch (nothing worthwhile at Cafe Promenade). A gathering of angels appeared above my head. They sang to me this some of hope, and this is what they said: They said, COME SAIL AWAY! COME SAIL AWAY!! COME SAIL AWAY WITH ME!!! The day is finally here! Just another couple of hours and we’ll be on board. I was told by another couple we met on the hotel elevator that Harmony is also in port today, and between those two ships and the others in port there are going to be 17,000 people there. Very glad I learned the lesson to get there between 10:30 and 11, because I can’t imagine what the crowds are going to be like! I know it’s multiple terminals and it won’t be all 17,000 in one place, but that many people funneling through the port entrance and security checkpoint is going to be nuts! I’m going “dark” now, probably until after sail-away. I’ll be Periscoping during sail-away, so keep an eye out for me there. Periscope handle is the same as my handle here.